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US Army Staff Sergeant Thomas E. Vitagliano, 33, of New Haven, Conn.

Dear Josie,
     I received your package a while ago, I placed your card on my table and just found it again today. Sorry for the delay. We are kept kind of busy for the most part. If we are not going out on patrols, we are on perimeter guard or standing by on Q.R.F. (Quick Reaction Force) in case something happens. For the last month, it has been mostly boring here. This last 10 days we have had a little excitement, though. We were fired at by an automatic weapon, but it was about 30 ft. over our heads. We found a big cache with weapons and ammunition, and 2 artillery shells prepared for emplacement as IED's (improvised explosive devices). And then while riding vehicles going into Ramadi on a mission, 2 IEDs exploded near us. Nobody was hurt, but it got the adrenaline going!
     Quality of life is improving, too. We are starting to get 2 hot meals a day now. Our protection measures keep getting better and our intelligence is better, too, we are going after bigger fish and we know more about the enemy. However, I still don't understand these people at all! You (we) certainly can't trust them, the insurgents hide among the civilians, and the civilians are too scared to point them out. But our relations seem to be improving.
     Our holidays were pretty good, actually. Santa came to see us riding on a tank! He had an M-16 rifle, too. The tank had a "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree on it and a bunch of Christmas lights.
     Thanks again so much for your package and generosity. I hope you had great holidays.
     SSG. Thomas Vitagliano
     "C" Co 1st BN 503rd INF REGT