Merry Christmas: From Eagle to Iraq |

Merry Christmas: From Eagle to Iraq

Special to the Vail DailySoldiers from Task Force MARNE or 3rd Infantry Division prepare for the holidays while stationed in Iraq. Pictured left to right, they are Pfc. Raynor, Cpl. McClintic and Sgt. 1st Class Rodriquez.

EAGLE, Colorado – Here at home, the streets are festooned with garland and lights, the shop windows are packed with gift ideas and local kids are getting increasingly antsy about those wrapped presents under the tree.

In Iraq, the atmosphere is very, very different.

But this holiday season, a little bit of Eagle has made its way to the Middle East.

Mary Witt’s voice is rich with pride when she talks about her little sister, Sgt. Ann Miller. “Annie enlisted when she was 17 years old,” said Witt. “She’s been in Iraq three times.”

Miller works in an Iraq Judge Advocate General office as a legal assistant. She is also pursuing her own law degree. Back at home in Milwaukee, her two kids (one is 17 years old, the other is 12) are living with another sister.

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Miller began her current deployment in October and is slated to remain overseas for a year.

“Annie takes deployment in stride. It’s just what she has to do,” said Witt. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t missed by her family every day, and especially at Christmas. But that makes Miller one of the lucky soldiers in Iraq.

“There are soldiers there who don’t get anything, not a card or a letter or anything, any time even at Christmas,” Witt said.

She decided to do what she could to keep that from happening.

What says “Christmas” more than a tree ornament, Witt figured. She decided handmade ornaments are particularly personal gifts and immediately her thoughts turned to Dewey Dabbles, the local make-your-own ceramics shop. She approached the owners who immediately came on board, hosting a series of ornament-making parties with reduced prices for participants. The first group had 20 crafters who fashioned 160 ornaments. Turns out, that was just the beginning.

“The way I do things, I don’t just send Annie a couple of ornaments,” said Witt, with a grin. “We ended up sending six boxes of ornaments and gifts.”

In addition to the ornaments, Witt collected a series of items contained in a soldiers’ wish list forwarded from Miller. The list included very simple items such as toothpaste, lip balm, beef jerky and playing cards. Once she told her friends and neighbors about the need, Witt was astounded by their generous response.

Witt heard from her sister last week that the boxes had arrived and that she was packing them up to distribute around Iraq.

“Whatever Annie gets, she will forward on,” said Witt. “My baby sister is an incredible caring, giving person.”

In the end, Witt said the act of reaching out to the men and women who are spending this Christmas in harm’s way has enriched the lives of many local residents, especially local kids.

“It’s been an opportunity to teach kids that other people need things more than they do and teach them about the war,” said Witt. “Kids really relate to somebody needing something at Christmas.”

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