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FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2006
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Letson  is a 911 dispatcher and addresser in Lawrence County and associate minister and elder at Fair Haven Church of Christ.
Courtesy photo
Letson is a 911 dispatcher and addresser in Lawrence County and associate minister and elder at Fair Haven Church of Christ.

CHRISTMAS MEMORY
A bond in the
face of danger

Moulton man recalls how special
service, party lifted spirits during
time in Iraq

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com (256) 340-2446

There's nothing like spending Christmas on duty in Iraq to create special memories and bonds — and make you appreciate Christmas with family even more.

Sgt. Harold Letson of Moulton is glad to be celebrating in Lawrence County with his wife, three children and five grandchildren again this year.

Letson, associate minister and elder at Fair Haven Church of Christ and a 911 dispatcher and addresser for Lawrence County, spent Christmas 2004 in Mosul, Iraq, with the 115th Signal Battalion, Company C.

Sgt. Harold Letson with an Iraqi soldier.
Courtesy photo
Sgt. Harold Letson with an Iraqi soldier.
Letson, 53, had previously spent 10 years in the Air Force. After preaching and working, he had looked into going back in as a chaplain but found he was too old, and seminary or a master's in divinity was a requirement.

He had preached for about 25 years, however, so it was natural for him to play a big part in his company's Christmas Eve service in Iraq.

"We had a church service where I preached from Galatians 4:4 on "The Fullness of Time," and the large gathering of soldiers included our officers, battalion commander, company commander, platoon leader and command sergeant major," he recalled.

They sang several Christmas songs and the company commander led them in prayer in the multipurpose building used for church, meetings and parties.

"It was a very emotional service, and the captain's prayer touched our hearts," said Letson. "We had been in that country for 10 months and were all longing to be at home with our families."

Members of 115th Signal Battalion, Company C, spent Christmas 2004 in Iraq. They had a Christmas Eve service in their multipurpose building near the airport at Mosul.
Courtesy photo
Members of 115th Signal Battalion, Company C, spent Christmas 2004 in Iraq. They had a Christmas Eve service in their multipurpose building near the airport at Mosul.
"Though we were in danger over there, and there were mortar rounds being fired during our service, I remember it as a special time we experienced together."

He said it is still difficult to describe the bond that they felt during that service.

"I guess we were all so close because we had one thing in common: getting home. "We had been walking by faith through the whole deployment, and that night we truly realized the blessings of God's grace. We prayed the Lord would continue with us and bring us home, and he did; we didn't lose a single person over there."

He remembers getting emotional about it even after arriving home.

"It was difficult at first, because at church on Sundays I would think about our services in Iraq and the songs we sang. I had to get a grip."

This Christmas, while he will again be with his family, he will undoubtedly remember his time in Iraq. On Christmas night in Mosul, they had a holiday party with food, gifts sent from their families and support groups, and karaoke.

"I was surprised that we had so much fun, considering the situation," Letson said. "It lifted our spirits."

They were near the airport, and Letson was a signal switch operator with his company, which supported an air traffic control unit. Earlier he was with a medical unit.

He was deployed from March 2004 to February 2005. At one point he thought he was going to have a reunion in Iraq with son Chris, who was in the Army and stationed at Fort Sill, Okla., but he returned home from his tour of duty there just before his dad arrived.

When Letson arrived, his daughter, Kim Bankston of Phil Campbell, made his homecoming special by going into labor and having her first child the next day. He has no problem remembering Sydnee Bankston's birthday. She will be 2 on Feb. 14.

Sydnee and the other grandchildren ages 2, 5, 7 and 9, along with Kim and sons Brian and Chris, both of Moulton, will be highlights of his Christmas this year. "Just being able to watch them enjoy Christmas is important," he said.

While rearing his family, he had put his own educational dreams on hold. Now, in addition to his diverse occupations and military service, he has a new goal: getting a master of divinity degree from Regions University (formerly Southern Christian in Montgomery). He is almost through with his academics and then will do clinical work in marriage and family therapy.

"For Christmas, I'll be here with all my family and loved ones, and that's a blessing in itself," said Letson.

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