There are a few places I try to stay away from, depending on the day or the time of year. For example, I try to stay away from Kroger on Senior Citizen Discount Day. If I ever forget which day it is, I’m quickly reminded when I pull up and half the parking lot is filled with Buicks.
I also stay out of Wal-Mart when Alabama is on a National Championship run. That’s just common sense.
Christmas has just become way too materialistic for my taste, so during the holidays, I try to stay away from large retail establishments. Sometimes, however, that is simply not possible. I had to go to Tiger Town this week for a gun. I had to. It was crunch time.
This wasn’t the first time I’d mixed Christmas and guns—nope, not at all—not by a long shot, pun intended. Santa brought me a Daisy BB gun one time when I was a boy. Thankfully, it wasn’t a Red Ryder, or I may have shot my eye out.
Guns were definitely in the mix during the three Christmases I spent in Iraq. The second and third time around was just fine, but that first Christmas in Iraq, Christmas of 2003, was something very special.
We’d only been in Iraq for a few weeks, after spending three weeks in Kuwait, but it had been an eventful few weeks. We spent our first month at Forward Operating Base Pacesetter, near the town of Samarra. On December 13, Saddam Hussein was captured near Tikrit, which was only about 30 kilometers from where we were. Word spread quickly that we’d be going home soon, but history tells us that didn’t happen.
Word also spread quickly that musician Ted Nugent had vowed to give a million dollars to any soldier or civilian who captured or killed Saddam Hussein. I helped spread that word after reading about it. My platoon sergeant had read it, too, and told anyone who’d listen all about it. After a brief discussion, we discovered that we’d read it at the same place, and that place was on the wall of a porta-potty in Kuwait. That stunk, and no one became an instant millionaire.
On or about Dec 21, we came under a rocket attack for the first time. Fortunately, they weren’t very close, but most of us were newbies to this and spent much of the night in bunkers. We were cold, wet, and miserable, but we were safe. We were at war; of this, there was no doubt.
Christmas was very special that year. We didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know how long we’d be there. We didn’t know if we’d all make it home safely, and sadly some of us didn’t. So, we just did the very best we could and had a Christmas to remember.
Our chow hall was an old bombed out hangar at the end of an airstrip, but it might have well have been a five star restaurant. Special food and drinks were flown in for the special occasion. Our cooks always did an exceptional job, but they outdid themselves on Christmas day. We had prime rib, ham, mashed potatoes, yams, green beans, and so much more. I had the honor of joining my fellow officers and senior noncommissioned officers in the longstanding military tradition of serving the troops, and I did so with my M16 slung over my shoulder.
It really was a magical Christmas. As a Believer, I was able to focus on my faith and hone in on the real meaning of Christmas without all the materialistic “brouhohoho.”
There may not have been peace on earth, but there was peace amongst us. We were an incredibly tight unit, and we were, for all intents and purposes, family. Of that, there was no doubt.
The gun I picked up at Tiger Town wasn’t a rifle, a shotgun, or a pistol. The gun I picked up was pink and shot Nerf bullets. It was for a sweet little girl—a little girl I’d do anything for, including going to a retail establishment the week before Christmas. Why? Well, because she’s just that special. Of that, there is no doubt.
Jody Fuller is from Opelika. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at For more information, please visit