Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gis in Bosnia Welcome Santa, Hot Meal Christmas without All the Trimmings

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gis in Bosnia Welcome Santa, Hot Meal Christmas without All the Trimmings

Article excerpt

SANTA GOT FRISKED on Christmas Eve.

A Bosnian Santa Claus, accompanied by a half-dozen musicians in a rickety horse-drawn cart, paid a surprise visit Sunday to the Tuzla air base, temporary home to 1,063 American troops assigned to enforce a U.S.-led peace pact.

"I want to welcome you to the Tuzla," the old man crowed as troops at the gate swept him with a metal-detecting wand.

One of them realized what he had done.

"I can't believe I just searched Santa Claus for weapons," he said.

In addition to Santa, the U.S. troops were to celebrate Christmas with a traditional turkey dinner, thanks to a kitchen crew that stayed up all night cooking.

"It's going to be a real morale booster," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Maiore of Buffalo, N.Y. "It's the first hot meal they've had in seven days."

On the menu was ham, turkey, sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, collard greens, corn, rolls, gravy, and pumpkin, pecan, apple and chocolate cream pies.

Sixteen turkeys were flown in from Germany, supplemented by pre-sliced army rations of the bird, Maiore said.

The Americans pulled together Christmas dinner and religious services after they began arriving in Bosnia last week. Other than those events, today will be a regular workday for the troops.

But there was one much-appreciated present: the balmy, springlike weather that melted Tuzla's snow and ice. It was 64 degrees at noon Sunday.

Maj. Lee Thompson, an Air Force chaplain serving in Tuzla, said this Christmas should be an especially meaningful one for the soldiers because there will be none of the commercialism and hype that he said often cloud the meaning of the day.

"With all those external things stripped away, hopefully we can recognize the true meaning of Christmas," he said. "When you don't have the shopping and all the commercialism, it boils down to, `What does it mean inside you,' and what Christmas is really intended to be."

Maj. Stephen Booth, a Roman Catholic chaplain, celebrated Mass on Sunday for soldiers at their artillery posts, standing before three howitzers and using the hood of a Humvee as an altar.

"Yes, you miss your loved ones, but today Bosnia is not the worst place to be, but the best place to be," Booth said. …

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