Christmas in the Sandbox

Tony Barnes By Tony Barnes, 28th Nov 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Religion

It was Christmas Eve at a deployment site in Saudi Arabia. God had a special blessing for me that night.

A Christmas Eve Blessing

We felt a great sense of mission accomplishment in the middle of the desert in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We lived in a tent city (Prince Sultan Air Base) of approximately 5,000 Airmen to include those from France and England. It was an amazing site to see over 600 eight man tents (I believe the Army calls those 12-man tents). Our commander was then Brigadier General Bentley Rayburn who I have become friends with in the years since. We were part of Operation Southern Watch…enforcing the no fly zone for the southern third of Iraq. Saddam Hussein wasn't known for following United Nations resolutions very well.

In my tent, we had subdivided off our living spaces with old abandoned wooden wall lockers and hanging sheets. We had air conditioning units for our tents (at this point old veterans roll their eyes at the luxury of it all). We had managed to make air conditioning ducts to each cubicle by taking large water bottles and linking them together with duct tape. Yes, we actually used duct tape…to make ducts. Bizarre idea, I know.

In my cubicle, I had taken a small plastic Christmas tree and put it into a shelf in my door less locker. I loosely lined the shelf with toilet paper to simulate snow and had a few other decorations that I hung around that Christmas tree area. I was feeling blue because I was thousands of miles away from my family. But, I was trying to make the most of it. Someone had sent me a stuffed animal dog that would bark ‘Jingle Bells’ when I pushed his paw. He sat on my pillow and would make me smile every time I noticed him there. I am a dog lover and missed my Yorkie and Pomeranian and somehow Jingle filled the gap.

Christmas Eve rolled around. It seemed to be a normal day like any other. We all looked forward to the next day when the chow hall (dining facility is what the cooks insisted we call it) was going to make us a classic Christmas dinner. But, first we had to get through Christmas Eve which is tough when you are so far from home. I noticed that first sergeant Ray Solberg was running around on a Gator vehicle delivering mail to people in our unit. We normally had to get our mail from the orderly room. But, he was making a last minute effort to get everyone their mail on Christmas Eve.

He handed me a letter that brought a huge smile to my face. It was from a lady named Leslie D. She was the mother of a girl that I had taken to my senior prom in high school over 17 years earlier. Both Leslie and daughter Kathy worked with me at the same McDonald’s. During those high school years, I often worked with her mother in the drive thru window passing those world famous burgers to the customers. She was a very strong Christian lady and often tried to share the gospel with me. At that point in my life, I was running from God and often made fun of her.

Seventeen years later, I had researched her address on the relatively new internet. I had mailed her a letter letting her know of my commitment to Christ, apologizing for my teenage behavior and of course asking how Kathy was doing in the years since our prom date. The first sergeant was now handing me the letter that contained her forgiveness and her update on Kathy. I firmly believe God orchestrated for that letter to arrive exactly on Christmas Eve. He did so to lift my spirits and remind me that Christmas really is about the forgiveness we could have through a baby born not too far from that spot in the middle of the Arabian Peninsula. The letter I wrote to her…in turn became a great Christmas gift for me.


Arabian Peninsula, Bentley Rayburn, Christmas, England, France, Iraq, Jingle Bells, Mcdonalds, Operation Southern Watch, Pomeranian, Prince Sultan, Saddam Hussein, Sandbox, Saudi Arabia, Solberg, United Nations, Yorkie

Meet the author

author avatar Tony Barnes
I am a native Texan who spent 3 years in the Marine Corps Reserves and 25 years on active duty in the Air Force. I have been a Christian since 1985 and am an ordained minister. I am conservative politically and love to study history. I publish a mont...(more)

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
29th Nov 2015 (#)

Fate sometimes has a funny way of playing out, it is those special moments of connection that remain in our memories.

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author avatar M G Singh
29th Nov 2015 (#)


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author avatar Valeria
5th Dec 2015 (#)

Love to hear something from a brother in Christ. Hope all your Christmases since have been times of great blessing.

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