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No service member wants to be away from home during the holidays, but — as military families well know — that’s part of the job.

And, of course, all duty stations are not created equal. Some troops will be opening presents and drinking eggnog in locations like London and Sydney and Stuttgart — not a bad deal at all.

Others will be standing the watch in less civilized surroundings. But even among hostile, unforgiving, or isolated environments, some places are better than others.

Here are 5 of the best among the worst:

1.  An aircraft carrier at sea

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Karl Anderson/Released)
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Karl Anderson/Released)

You’re at sea with 5,500 of your closest friends, and the cooks are serving up turkey and gravy on the mess decks. Hit the line as many times as you want, just like the old days at grandma’s house. And afterward, it’s time to kick back in 96-man berthing and watch “Elf” for the nth time on the closed circuit TV.

2. Bagram, Afghanistan

In the chow line at the DFAC, Bagram, Afghanistan. (Photo: Army.mil)
In the chow line at the DFAC, Bagram, Afghanistan. (Photo: Army.mil)

Like No.1 above, the cooks (contractors in this case) are serving up a heaping helping of holiday cheer, so take a break from that “Call of Duty” tournament going on in the rec center and get over there. And don’t forget the USO show happening in the base theater later. You might get to meet ScarJo!

3. Diego Garcia

Sailors and airmen display their catch after a fishing expedition off of Diego Garcia. (Photo: USAF.mil)
Sailors and airmen display their catch after a fishing expedition off of Diego Garcia. (Photo: USAF.mil)

It’s Christmas, and you’re on a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean thousands of miles from the closest landmass. But you’re wearing shorts and flip flops. Take a selfie and make your shivering friends stateside jealous.

4. McMurdo Station, Antartica

Santa the Bartender preps something in the cozy space of Gallagher's Pub at McMurdo Station. (Photo: Eli Duke)
Santa the Bartender preps a drink in the cozy environment of Gallagher’s Pub at McMurdo Station. (Photo: Eli Duke)

Late December is summertime in Antartica, so while it’s not sunbathing weather, you can actually go outside for more than a few minutes at a time. That means the soccer match against the Brits is on! Loser buys the first round at Gallagher’s Pub afterward.

5. The International Space Station

(Photo: NASA)
(Photo: NASA)

You’ve been orbiting 220 miles above the earth for just shy of 300 days, and now it’s time to teach your Russian and Japanese expeditionmates some good ol’ American carols. And you can do it while floating upside down thanks to your zero gravity environment. After that, gather the team in the Cupola and enjoy the beautiful view of Planet Earth and wonder — as John Glenn did during his Mercury mission all those years ago — why peace there is such a struggle.

(Photo: NASA)
(Photo: NASA)

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