Troops enjoy rare white Christmas in Middle East
IRISH troops in Lebanon are likely to wake up to a white Christmas as the Middle East experiences its first snowy winter in decades.
This Christmas there will be 416 Defence Force personnel sending their festive wishes home to family via the postman, Skype and the Irish Independent.
Many will be sitting down to dinner on December 25 in far-flung places including Mali, Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Some were getting into the festive spirit, as Captain Brian Connolly from Galway and Wicklow native Lieutenant Donal Mitchell used building materials at the UN Post 2-45 with UNIFIL Lebanon to build a 'rough and ready' snowman.
Corporal Paddy Hodgins, serving with 42 Infantry Group UNIFIL, stood guard beside a giant-sized snowman, as he wished all at home a "happy and safe" Christmas.
And Lieutenant Cillian McHugh took time out after clearing all the snow from the paths at the UN post to give a Christmas "shout out".
With several inches of snow encrusted on his UN jeep, Lieutenant Donal Mitchell, who is serving with 42 Infantry Group UNIFIL, wanted to send this message to his family: "Happy Christmas to Fiona, Cormac and Conor and all at home."
Lieutenant Deirdre Carbery wished all her family and friends a happy Christmas, but "especially my fiance Andy".
The troops were all wrapped up warm against the snows in south Lebanon where they are occupying a post south of the village At Tiri -- which is currently home to the 42nd Infantry Group led by Lt Col Ray Yorke from Longford.
Private Wesley Cooney will be one of the many chefs tasked to serve up Christmas dinner, including turkey and all the trimmings. He'll be catering for several hundred at the camp, which is also home to troops from Finland and Belgium.
Captain Laura Keane said: "He'll be creating a Christmas dinner for troops on the day. Normal operational duties will continue around it also -- they'll get the chance to Skype home and catch up on all the news."