"Thanks for the gift!

"On Nov. 24, as we departed for Colorado en route to Saudi Arabia, tears were shed aplenty and long lingering hugs replaced the words of farewell that no one wanted to utter."Our original date to be in Saudi Arabia was Dec. 23, so no one was dreaming of a white Christmas. And we certainly weren't expecting to see our families again for another five months. So when our deployment date slipped into January, an unexpected four-day Christmas pass was granted to all the members of the 144th.

"The last chance, for a long while, to be home with family and friends has been a gift of intangible proportions. There is no way to measure the joy, hope and happiness this gift has brought to so many for such a short time: to Paul, who has eight grandchildren; and Steve, who has a new, 2-week-old baby boy; and Terri, whose parents never saw their four sons go off to war and now they have to see their daughter do so; and to all of the other individual members of the 144th for whatever reason or no reason at all. This gift will long be remembered and cherished. It is a gift purchased with only love.

"I feel that I speak for all the others in expressing gratitude for this gracious gift - gratitude to the post commander of Fort Carson, and his staff, for allowing us this Christmas pass. To our own hospital commander and his staff for their tireless efforts in looking out for the welfare of their people. To those of you who donated your money to charter a bus for those of our unit who would have been economically unable to be home at this time. And to all of you good Utah people whose prayers and well-wishes are our fountain of fortitude.

"As we deploy for Saudi Arabia, the memory of this gift will boost our spirits and leave us with a lingering taste of the love that awaits us upon our return."

- SSG A.J. Walkowski

144th Evacuation Hospital

Utah National Guard