Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Dear readers — may your holidays be merry and full of joy in the company of loved ones and good friends. Our thoughts and good wishes also go to our men and women in uniform and civilians in the war zones, and our Foreign Service personnel on unaccompanied assignments in difficult places around the world. May your holidays be quiet and peaceful; and may the universe keep you safe wherever you are!

A person dressed as Santa Claus salutes the U.S. flag aboard the U.S. Navy attack submarine USS Boise (SSN 764) as the colors are shifted after the submarine’s return to Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Dec. 23, 2008, after a six-month deployment. While deployed, Boise participated in five anti-submarine warfare exercises with several European allies. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd A. Schaffer/Released)

U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Haggins, dressed as Santa Claus, presents a gift to a Filipino child during Operation Goodwill at the Manila Day Care Center in Manila, Philippines, Dec. 16, 2009. (That’s Ambassador Kristie Kenney between Santa and little girl). The operation gives U.S. Marines and their families stationed in Okinawa, Japan, an opportunity to spread goodwill in the region during the holiday season. (DoD photo by Sgt. Leon M. Branchaud, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

Veterans’ memorials and gravesites across the nation will be adorned with remembrance wreaths on Dec. 15 through a program known as Wreaths Across America. Some 32,144 wreaths are scheduled to be placed in cemeteries and memorials on that day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi) .