Home for Christmas in Glendale

After having spent a couple of Christmases in Iraq, and another at Fifth Fleet Headquarters in the Middle Eastern island nation of Bahrain, it is impossible to take the tranquillity of Christmas in Glendale for granted.

This will be my first holiday season at home in several years and I am cherishing every moment.

When I look back at these combat deployments, I am thankful for the many neighbors who made special efforts to welcome me home from Iraq, to the men of Fire Station 26, who turned out in force to mark the day, and to the Glendale Police Department, which had motor officers to control traffic and display their highly visible support.

It is difficult to adequately describe just how important this kind of support is to the morale of the troops and their will to continue the mission. Here in Glendale, it is especially gratifying to see the names of our men and women in uniform proudly displayed on Hero Banners as I drive down Glendale Avenue.

While I was gone, in unsolicited efforts, neighbors pitched in by putting the trash cans away, they made small repairs like installing a paper towel holder, and hosted my wife to dinner to keep our spirits up. Each of these gifts is special in its own way and will be long remembered by this grateful Marine.

With the withdrawal of American troops and a spike in sectarian violence, Iraq is in the headlines again. The question is constantly being asked, “Was Iraq worth the blood and treasure?”

We know this will be a topic of hot debate, not only now, but for future historians. President Bush’s decision to press the Global War on Terror in the streets of Baghdad will always be controversial.

However, the one thing we can say with certainty is that our nation did not suffer a second catastrophic attack while we had troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. We know from public press accounts that many of our most fanatical enemies simply saved the commute and went to Afghanistan or Iraq in their efforts to kill an American rather than strike our families here at home.

With the third largest known reserves of oil and the unimaginable wealth that comes with it, we can readily expect that there will be a series of vicious and bloody power struggles to see who controls Iraq’s resources. The violence is hard for us to understand because as a nation, we have an especially blessed history of settling our differences at the ballot box or through a court decision — not with guns or improvised explosive devices.

This December, as my daily runs take me past Nibley Park, I see yet another generation of Glendale families raising their children with as much safety and security as childhood will provide. I am thankful for my neighbors, for the love and devotion of my precious wife, Maribeth, and for the special blessing of enjoying Christmas at home — here in Glendale.

Editor’s note: Marine Col. James D. McGinley is a decorated Iraq war veteran and served three combat tours in the Middle East.

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