In 1976, a young Marine sergeant named Jerome Cwiklinski was working his first Christmas as a guard at the U.S. Embassy in Austria.
Vienna may be one of the most picturesque places you could spend Christmas, but Cwiklinski
wouldn't have known it.
was miserable, stuck in a cold, lonely guard post without so much as a strand of tinsel in sight.
Now one of the Navy's top chaplains, he
looks back on that Christmas as one of his
"People say they want to cut through the tinsel and glitter to get to the real meaning of the season," says now-Capt.
"The military can help you do that because there are times when you are stationed in places where it just doesn't exist."
Embrace those moments, he
Although chaplains come from particular denominations, part of their job is to help troops and their families connect with what works for them, says Cwiklinski, an Orthodox priest and force chaplain for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific.
"We are a referral resource," he
"It sometimes helps to talk that out with their chaplain, to tell them, 'This is what I'm used to - this is what we did back home.' Just having those conversations can help them embrace whatever is available."
If you're deployed, it may not be much, but a chaplain may be able to connect you with others from your faith tradition whom you aren't aware of.
If nothing else, consider bringing a touchstone of your faith - anything from prayer books to a Bible - that will help you connect to the spiritual side of the holiday season on your own.
At larger installations, even downrange, there's often no shortage of faith groups that might be a good fit for you, Cwiklinski