I hope all our readers and their loved ones had a wonderful Christmas.
I also hope that our 250,000 military service members who spent this Christmas at our many overseas bases, posts, outposts and aboard Navy ships and submarines — about 50,000 of them in a combat zone — managed to have as blessed a Christmas as possible.
Here are a few images of some happy aspects of Christmas for our troops:
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Antony Muiruri, assigned to the Airborne Early Warning Squadron 126, handles packages in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman during a replenishment-at-sea in the Arabian Gulf.
U.S. soldiers, dressed for the holiday as Santa Claus and an elf, watch the Afghanistan countryside from the tail of an aircraft after delivering bundles containing care packages, Christmas stockings and mail to soldiers stationed at a remote base in eastern Afghanistan.
Chief Culinary Specialist Wayne John, food production chief, right, serves the Christmas holiday dinner to Sailors aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73). George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paolo Bayas.
Dakota Meyer, the only living U.S. Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipient, serves dinner in the dining facility during a visit with Marine leaders on Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Dec. 25, 2013. Dakota, a former Army captain, earned the medal for heroism during a six-hour battle following a deadly Taliban ambush in Afghanistan four years ago.
Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Vilma T. Rodriguez speaks with President Barack Obama over the phone Dec. 25, as she spent the holiday at a friend’s place at Camp Shields in Okinawa, Japan. Rodriguez was nominated for the call for her duty performance during Operation Damayan, the relief effort in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan. During the operation, she returned to her hometown of Tacloban, one of the hardest-hit areas. Rodriguez lost her brother and cousin to the typhoon. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Lawrence W. Watters
But, without a doubt, those men and women who were fortunate enough to return home just in time for the holidays had the most joyous Christmas:
First Lady Michelle Obama hugs each Marine who recently returned from Afghanistan in time for the holidays during a Toys for Tots event on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2013.
U.S. Army National Guard 1st Lt. Nick Aldridge poses with his family after surprising them with an appearance as Scuba Claus at the Mall of America’s Sea Life Aquarium tank in Bloomington, Minn., Dec. 22, 2013. Aldridge returned home from a deployment to Afghanistan in time for the holidays.
Master Sgt. Jason Slaymaker, 39th Information Operations Squadron operations superintendent, surprises his sons, Jakeb, 4, and Jarret, 2, with an early Christmas present: himself, at the Bass Pro Shop in Destin, Fla., Dec. 20, 2013. Slaymaker spent the last year in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Krystal M. Garrett)
U.S. Army Sgt. David P. Castro, U.S. Army Spcs. Jeffrey Babauta Jr. and Robert M. Castro give the thumbs up before departing Camp Phoenix, Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 17, 2013. Castro, Babauta, and Castro are assigned to Guam Army National Guard’s Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, and part of the first group of Guam soldiers that departed Afghanistan as Task Force Guam concludes its historic Operation Enduring Freedom mission.
Lead Image: Chief Sonar Technician (Submarine) Geoff Walker holds his 11-month old daughter after the return of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hampton (SSN 767) following a six-month deployment to the western Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom)
All photos and captions: DOD