The proper means of increasing the love we bear our native country is to reside some time in a foreign one.  ~William Shenstone

"Mail is one of the greatest morale boosters we can give our troops during the holidays." said Postmaster General John E. Potter. "When they see that package or letter waiting for them on their bunk or hear their name at mail call, it brings them that much closer to family and the comforts of home."

Christmas is fast approaching and winter is very bitter over there. We were told that the winters are as terrible as the summers are. Our soldiers need the following in addition to the usual items:

                       Hand Warmers

                       Black Stocking Caps

                       Warm Socks (Black)

                       Black Batting or Golf Gloves

                       Fleece or Crocheted Scarves

                       Packets of Hot Cocoa, Tea, and Coffee

                       Handi-Wipes

The holidays beginning with Thanksgiving is especially hard on the soldiers, so if we can bring an Oklahoma Christmas to our troops that will help the longing they feel for home.

On Christmas morning your heart should be overflowing with love because you have made Christmas more joyful for our kids oversees.

Those of you who have served in the military during peace and even more so, during war, know how hard it is to be so far away from home and loved ones during the Christmas holidays. Your generosity will never ever be forgotten by these young men and women. They will be telling their children,  their grandchildren, and great-grandchildren how the good folks in Ponca City, Shidler, Enid, Tulsa, Houston, Tennessee, and Colorado  back in the year 2007 reached deep into their pockets to make sure they would have a wonderful Christmas so far away from home. They know you have not forgotten them and to a soldier fighting overseas that means everything!

You may think that a piece of hard candy, a package of peanut butter crackers, DVD's, feminine hygiene products is not much, but to our soldiers it represents Oklahoma. It came from the BEST country in the whole world, the United States of America!  It came from the land they love and dream about. The land they are fighting for. The land they are willing to lay their lives on the line for. America!

    These courageous soldiers go out every night and every day knowing that the enemy is out there, waiting for them around the bend, on the other side of the bridge, waiting for them down the road and still they go. They go out every night and every day knowing that they may not come back and still they go. They know that out there in the darkness danger is lurking and still they go. They go because they believe in America. They believe in freedom. They go because they know in their heart of hearts that they are making a difference. They go because they believe in America and what it stands for.  Most of them are just kids...but they are not just kids...they are warriors. They are our heroes. 

  They are making a tremendous sacrifice for all of us, and so, these things that we send...the toiletries, the socks, the books, the board games, the letters, the DVD's, the books, and the prayers lets them know that they are loved, appreciated and that we are grateful for their sacrifice.

   A group of women from Shidler decided not to give each other Christmas gifts and to use the money they would have spent on each other to buy Christmas presents for our soldiers. I think that's a wonderful idea! Many others have decided to follow their example and do the same thing. They said, "We don't need another thing to dust or to wear. Let's all make a sacrifice for our soldiers this year because they are certainly giving up so much for us."

   Please continue writing them letters of encouragement. Encourage your children or grandchildren to write letters or draw pictures to be sent to our soldiers.  Bring your toiletries, snacks, games, Christmas gifts and letters to the Pioneer Woman Museum. Mailing deadlines are fast approaching, so please continue bringing or sending your checks to Operation Pioneer Spirit.

Just the Best Cookies

These truly are the best ever cookies according to the troops who have emailed me or written letter from Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan. They just can’t keep them around and they travel well. I like to pack them in Pringle cans or tins. They keep for weeks…well they can keep for weeks. Usually, they are gone in a few hours…at least at our house.

1-cup butter

1-cup brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 cup cooking oil

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup crushed corn flakes

1/2-cup coconut

1 cup chopped pecans

3 1/2 cups all-purpose four

1-teaspoon baking soda

1-teaspoon salt

1-teaspoon vanilla

•Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and blend. Add oil, stirring until blended. Add oats, corn flakes, coconut and pecans. Stir until mixed. Add flour, soda, salt and vanilla. Form into balls about the size of a walnut. It may be necessary to add additional flour.

•Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten with a fork dipped in water. Bake for 12 minutes. Allow to cool. These will keep several weeks in covered container or can be frozen. Makes 8 dozen.

I also make my favorite fudge recipe and pour it hot into a clean coffee can. I would let it cool and then I would send it to our Megan and her Jeff along a couple of plastic spoons. They would eat it right out of the can and put the lid on until another day. 

I had no Christmas spirit when I breathed a weary sigh,
and looked across the table where the bills were piled too high.
The laundry wasn’t finished and the car I had to fix,
My stocks were down another point, the Dolphins lost by six.

And so with only minutes till my son got home from school
I gave up on the drudgery and grabbed a wooden stool.
The burdens that I carried were about all I could take,
and so I flipped the TV on to catch a little break.

I came upon a desert scene in shades of tan and rust,
No snowflakes hung upon the wind, just clouds of swirling dust.
And where the reindeer should have stood before a laden sleigh,
eight hummers ran a column right behind an M1A.

A group of boys walked past the tank, not one was past his teens,
Their eyes were hard as polished flint, their faces drawn and lean.
They walked the street in armor with their rifles shouldered tight,
their dearest wish for Christmas, just to have a silent night.

Other soldiers gathered, hunkered down against the wind,
To share a scrap of mail and dreams of going home again.
There wasn’t much at all to put their lonely hearts at ease,
They had no Christmas turkey, just a pack of MREs.

They didn't have a garland or a stocking I could see,
They didn't need an ornament-- they lacked a Christmas Tree.
They didn’t have a present even though it was tradition,
the only boxes I could see were labled “ammunition.”

I felt a little tug and found my son now by my side,
He asked me what it was I feared, and why it was I cried.
I swept him up into my arms and held him oh so near
and kissed him on the forehead as I whispered in his ear.

There’s nothing wrong my little son, for safe we sleep tonight,
our heroes stand on foreign land to give us all the right,
to worry on the things in life that mean nothing at all,
instead of wondering if we will be the next to fall.

He looked at me as children do and said its always right,
to thank the ones who help us and perhaps that we should write.
And so we pushed aside the bills and sat to draft a note,
to thank the many far from home, and this is what we wrote,

God bless you all and keep you safe, and speed your way back home.
Remember that we love you so, and that you’re not alone.
The gift you give you share with all, a present every day,
You give the gift of liberty and that we can’t repay.

Michael Marks
December 2003