In 2004 my unit was on its second trip to Baghdad following the invasion of Iraq. We were mechanized infantry, and we were set to be there for a year.

Our unit started in Sadr City and was moved over to the Abu Ghraib prison area. This was following the charges against 11 U.S. soldiers with crimes stemming from detainee abuse. You could say the locals didn’t like us very much.

We Fought Against Children That Were Regularly Paid by the Enemy to Throw Grenades at us, Thankfully Missing Each Time.

In Iraq, we fought against car combs, IEDs, RPGs, and mortars. We fought an enemy with no uniform. Despite 84 people receiving the Purple Heart in my infantry company of about 120, our bond as hooligan brothers only grew stronger.

One of our Bradleys ran over an Anti-Tank mine. Thankfully, everyone walked away without life-threatening injuries.

This Brotherly bond is strong. More substantial than most familial ties. This is something hard to explain but you know for a fact that if one of the brothers called you, you’d be there, no matter what.

Christmas in Baghdad 2004 Was Fun.

Without prompting, an organizer, or notice, we emerged to go on patrol. We, the infantrymen, are funny, light, and goofy whenever we could be. Except that day’s patrol was going to be different for two reasons.

Firstly, we were going to patrol through the market. This was considered pretty dangerous because of the crowds of people. Secondly, it was Christmas Day. Yet, our soldiers looked at it no different than any other day — for the most part. 

To change things up, we decided to instill some festive spirit in our patrol and wear the requisite holiday adornments. No one had a complete holiday outfit, but it didn’t matter; we were going to make the best of it. From its rear, our crowd looked like a bunch of hooligan elves, deer, and Santas.

Our goofy hooligan group of Christmas cheer patrolled for many hours that day in Iraq, thankfully without contact. The weather was rainy and gloomy. Mud was seemingly everywhere and stuck to the bottom of our tan summer boots. The streets smelled wretchedly. Yet, we were still happy.

A 5×7” American Flag sticker on the side of my vehicle.

With my Brothers in Iraq, I felt the safest.

I believe anyone that has conducted a combat patrol can attest that we are better together. This means that when you are on patrol in a dangerous country, you can somehow have a sense of safety because you’re with your brothers on your left and right.

This extends far beyond the battlefield. Remember that earlier I spoke of Brotherhood. Veterans congregate after leaving the armed forces in order to maintain the unspoken bond. Many join the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Special Forces Association (SFA), or other organizations, to be closer to their brothers.

Sixteen years after, I still clearly remember our holiday patrol in Iraq: hooligans in the market on Christmas day. And I chuckle every time I think of it.