More than 150,000 American service men and women will not be with their families during the holiday season because they are half a world away, serving in Iraq, many of them putting their lives on the line each day.

Merry Christmas.

3,900 (and counting) American service men and women will never again spend the holidays with their loved ones and friends. They died in Iraq.

Merry Christmas.

Nobody even knows how many everyday Iraqi citizens — men, women, children, caught in the middle of a guerilla war not of their choosing — have been killed since the conflict began. No government or agency has bothered to keep a tally. Estimates of the dead range from 500,000 to more than 1 million.

Merry Christmas.

Nobody knows, either, exactly how many U.S. service men and women have been horribly maimed, disfigured, or mentally traumatized in the Iraq war — estimates range from 28,000 to 35,000. They will spend the rest of their lives disabled or coping with physical and mental problems. The impact on their families and on our society as a whole is incalculable.

Merry Christmas.

A University of Georgia study of veterans' suicides (averaging 120 per week) showed those age 20 through 24 who have served during the “war on terror,” have the highest suicide rate among all veterans — two to four times greater than civilians the same age.

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An estimated 3.8 million-plus (again, nobody knows for sure) Iraqi citizens are living as refugees in neighboring countries, often in the meanest of circumstances, because they risked death or torture if they stayed in their war-torn homeland.

Merry Christmas.

Here in the U.S., one of the most affluent nations on earth, with abundance on every hand, as many as 1 million children are homeless this holiday season — more than any time since the Great Depression. Adult homeless numbers add another 750,000 to 1 million. In the equally affluent European Union, an estimated 3 million are homeless.

Merry Christmas.

In the genocide that has racked Rwanda and Congo, 4 million or more have been killed, a significant percentage children under age 5 — while most of the world looked the other way. A thousand or more children die there of starvation each day.

Merry Christmas.

In a world that produces more than enough food to provide adequate nutrition for every man, woman, and child, one of every seven persons lacks enough food for a healthy life. Malnutrition is the No. 1 health problem worldwide, affecting over 850 million people — more than malaria, TB, and AIDS combined. The number is growing, not diminishing.

Merry Christmas.

Much of our world is not a pretty place these days, and for millions this holiday will bring neither peace nor joy.

So, as we gather with family and friends in this most fortunate of lands, amid the glitter and sparkle and abundance of Christmas, may we give at least passing thought to all those who suffer, who are hungry, who grieve for lost loved ones, are homeless or displaced, or for whom hope consists of simply trying to survive.

Merry Christmas.