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Wishing everyone health, happiness, and prosperity

WORTHINGTON -- Christmas has come and gone, and the New Year has arrived. I can remember as a child after opening my presents at Christmas, I would put everything in a pile and then

decide which gift I would play with first. We weren't what I considered wealthy growing up, but I still felt fortunate compared to many others. Many kids today can't count all of their gifts as there are just too many of them. The mentality of, "the more you spend the better" seems to have overshadowed the real reason for Christmas to many families.

Recently I told you about the jumper cables that I received on my 16th Christmas. I was not impressed at the time, but have really come to appreciate them in the last 29 years.

This year was a different Christmas for me. It was one that found my son stationed in Haditha City, Iraq. Now I don't get to talk to Brandon very often -- usually about every six weeks for about 10 minutes at a time when calls me on a satellite phone. Many people can be seen all day long with a cell phone stuck in their ear, and I too am rarely ever without mine because I never know when he might call.

When he does call it is routed through a telephone exchange in Honolulu, Hawaii. His United States base is Konieoa Bay, Hawaii. I assume that is why his calls are routed through there. The prefix is 808-852 and I can't remember the last four digits. There is nothing that can deflate me faster than missing a call from an 808 prefix. I don't know the time zones in Iraq, but the calls can come in the middle of the night or when you least expect them.

My family all asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I told them a call from an 808 prefix. On Friday, Dec. 22, I got my most-wanted present at 4:30 p.m. The call was similar to the others in that it lasted about eight minutes, and when it's time to hang up he says, "Got to go. Love you, Dad," and he is just gone. They can't tell you very much about what they are doing or how things are going. Fear of the enemy monitoring the call keeps everything very generic. Even when there is information that he can share he usually doesn't in order to minimize the worry factor for all concerned.

He is scheduled home in April and that's not many days away, although it will seem like an eternity. I bet that you and I have read a thousand Christmas cards that read something like "I hope the season brings you and yours health, happiness, and prosperity in the New Year." When you stack all your presents and gifts in one big pile it can't hold a candle to health, happiness, and family. When Brandon comes home he will be a different young man than the 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Marine who left the comfort of the free world to serve his country, and when it comes to knowing and appreciating what is really important my son's experience will make his dad a different person, too.

I truly do wish you all the health, happiness and prosperity in the New Year that we can enjoy living in the Land of the Free because of the Brave.