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A Kuwaiti Christmas for one Penn State DuBois student

Student Julie Himes in Kuwait
1/4/2006 —

Kuwait City, KUWAIT - The thoughts of many U.S. troops in Kuwait this holiday season dwell on duty, the Iraqi election, home, Christmas spirit and the Orange Bowl.

Sgt. Julie Himes of St. Marys, a senior human development and family studies major at Penn State DuBois, is taking a hiatus from her collegiate education to complete a 12-18 month tour in Kuwait with the 247th Corps Support Battalion from Punxsutawney. She left in April for a summer's worth of training at Ft. Dix, N.J., then deployed to Kuwait in August.

Though temperatures soared up to 130 degrees when they arrived, the onset of "winter" weather keeps troops at comfortable 50-plus degrees. Himes admits that no one really misses the snow. Although there won't be a white Christmas for the troops in the Gulf, Himes said the trade-off is the beauty of Kuwait City and the opportunity to defend her nation. Himes wrote to the campus this week about some of her experiences.

"I am stationed in Kuwait, but the Iraqi elections obviously impact us as well," Himes said. "In general, the Kuwaitis support the war. They are nice to Americans."

News from the home front filters to the soldiers through letters, phone calls and emails from friends and relatives. The digital revolution allows photographs to be shared from half a world away in mere minutes, keeping images of loved ones fresh and close at heart. Himes helps the spirit of the season shine a little brighter by decorating a Christmas tree at her work station. She said the troops appreciate all of the support from home including churches, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, other Army units and family and friends.

"Everyone is in the Christmas spirit and displaying their Christmas cards and cookies that were sent from home," Himes wrote. "Since Christmas falls on a Sunday, it will increase the possibility of a day off, but it's not looking good for the home team. The war doesn't stop because it's Christmas. We will have special church services and dinners, not only for Christmas but Hanukah and Kwanza and any other religious holiday for that matter."

Himes has been in the Army Reserves for more than six years. Her job in Kuwait consists of completing personnel status reports, a twice daily report on everyone in the battalion. Himes also processes awards, leaves and pay issues along with unique daily events or duties that inevitably spring up.

She looks forward to finishing her degree at Penn State DuBois upon her return. In the meantime, her Penn State pride, along with other Penn State fans in her battalion, is a little stronger this December given the news that the Nittany Lions will play Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

"Many soldiers were talking about the football team," Himes said. "Go Penn State!"

Himes is the daughter of Diane and Mike Johnston and Robert Himes, all of St. Marys. She is engaged to Dennis Lecker, also of St. Marys.

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For more information, contact Erin Chorney, Public Information Officer at Penn State DuBois, at 814-375-4776 or by email at edc11@psu.edu

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