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“Hi, I’m Bob” said a bearded man with an easy smile and an outstretched hand as I opened the front door of the Bradenton Herald a week ago. I was waiting for military families to show up for the Christmas photo, and I wasn’t sure if Bob was there for the photo or to drop off a classified ad. He was there for the photo. Slowly, the entranceway filled with people. Some were so familiar...”Aren’t you a teacher?” No, she worked at the post office on 75th Street and processes a lot of Mr. C’s soldier care packages. She’s probably sent a few of Daniel’s boxes as well. Another face I recognized from the framed photo she held and the tall young man by her side. Navy Mom Sandee McDonald-oh-I know her! She works at the downtown firehouse! Marine Moms were there, Semper Fidelis of course, most with Marine Dads in tow. One baby, the child of a deployed soldier, cried as I approached. A Navy Mom laughed and joked “probably scared of the the gung-ho Marine Mom!” As I looked around I saw folks introducing themselves, sharing about their loved one who wasn’t there. “My son is in Yuma, Arizona. He’ll be in Iraq soon...” A reverent mix of fear and pride could be heard in their voices, the love for their son, daughter or husband evident. A couple of minutes after 11, Marine Mom Teresa took control and coralled the group into place. As I perched on the ladder trying to see if everyone was in place, a voice started to sing. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way...” The others quickly joined in as I fired off a few frames. Photographer and good friend Paul Videla took my camera for a moment so I could have a copy with me in it. Then it was done. I posted this photo today on Manatee's Military Moms blog on Bradenton.com. Hopefully, Roni's son, Lance, in Iraq and Sandee's son, Micah, somewhere on a ship and Bob's grandson in Yuma and all the others not with us can log on and see how much we all love them, miss them, and thank them. Merry Christmas!

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