Troops Spend Yet Another Christmas in Iraq

As in many other regions, festive decor signals the holiday. But what's different about these fluorescent-lighted cubicles and flickering computer screens is that a war surrounds them.

The combat outpost in Baghdad is where soldiers like Lashonda Harris pull multiple tours of duty for up to 15 months, and celebrate Christmas.

"I've missed about eight Christmases out of the last 10 years," Harris said.

Being stationed abroad means Harris has missed family gatherings at her grandmother's home. Harris is now spending another holiday without her grandmother, who died last June.

Her story is not unusual. Black Hawk pilot Capt. Matt Seegmiller has missed Christmas at home and his young daughter for three of the past five years.

"It's really hard on my wife," he said. "She ends up having to raise her herself for the majority of the time."

Seegmiller said he tried not to think about Christmas in Iraq, where a moment's distraction can have deadly consequences.

"It's not horrible, but it's not back home by any means," Seegmiller said.

Four and a half years into the Iraq War, some of the troops ABC News spoke with have been here two or even three times.

Some soldiers at least get a partial feel of home, because they are spending their deployment with their spouses.

Master Sgt. Rufus Lewis and his wife, who is also a soldier, have been together for 28 years. The couple is spending yet another holiday in Iraq.

"She's getting tired of it," Lewis said of his wife.

But she realizes it may not be the last Christmas in the desert. Lewis is still six years away from retirement.

"There'll probably be some more Christmases away from my family," Lewis said.

Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Peck is adjusting to spending the holiday without his soldier wife, Loraina, in Iraq. Last Christmas they were in the war zone together. Now, Loraina is back home with their 15-year-old daughter.

War is less isolating these days. Troops can phone home and talk on camera over the Internet. But no matter how many Christmases you spend in places like this, Peck said, you never really get used to it.

"This'll be my third, fourth Christmas deployed in seven years," he said. "It never feels like Christmas out here to be honest. We play the music, and it's nice and you've got your extended family, but it's tough when you don't have your own family there and the time off to spend with them and see the expressions on their faces."

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