While you’re tucking into turkey and ham on December 25, 21-year-old soldier Steven O’Connell from Rhode will be on patrol on his first overseas mission in Lebanon.
The gunner is the youngest member of the 170-strong 42nd Infantry Group - including seven soldiers from Offaly - that began a six month rotation in mid-November monitoring hostilities, assisting the government of Lebanon and supporting the Lebanese armed forces.
Speaking to the Offaly Independent Steven said what he’ll miss most this Christmas is Christmas Eve Mass and opening presents with his family at home on Christmas morning.
Steven joined the army in March 2011. He described his first overseas mission to Lebanon as a new experience that is “enjoyable so far” this week, but added that it is also “very cold”.
“Christmas Day will be like any other day, which will consist of patrolling and carrying out regular duties,” he explained, adding that he is on area domination patrol (ADP) on Christmas Day. “We continue to operate as normal over the Christmas period,” he added.
While Steven’s family back home in Rhode will be tucking into a Christmas dinner, he’s also expecting a feast. “I know the cooks will have a good spread prepared,” he said.
Though Steven will miss out on exchanging presents with his family on Christmas Day, his day won’t be bereft of presents.
“In my platoon we have also decided to do a Kris Kinle so hopefully I’m lucky and someone gets me a nice surprise,” he said.
Steven also has a message for his family and friends back home - “to enjoy Christmas and keep safe over the period. I will see them in the New Year.”