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DEAR READERS: Carols fill the air, our halls have been decked with boughs of holly and the Christmas trees are decorated. Yule logs have been kindled, and Santa's on his way. In Jewish homes, Hanukkah candles burn brightly, and Kwanzaa begins in less than a week. 'Tis the season to be jolly -- a time when thoughts turn homeward to loved ones and holidays past.

This is also the time of year that's hardest for our young men and women in the military, stationed far from home -- many for the first time. Most of them are between the ages of 18 and 22, and while we folks back home are fighting the crowds in shopping centers, they are dodging bullets and car bombs.

So, please, dear readers, you are the most generous people in the world. Remember our troops. They need our support. Go to your computer, type in www.OperationDearAbby.net, and send these brave, dedicated young people heartfelt holiday greetings today. They deserve our thanks, our prayers ... and much more.

DEAR ABBY: After 30 years of marriage, my husband, "Allan," began an affair with a young woman in his office. I was devastated, and our three children and two grandchildren were all affected.

I made up my mind not to become revengeful or bitter. I realized that Allan no longer loved me or he wouldn't have left. I returned to school, got a part-time job, and did the best I could to keep things smooth for my youngest daughter, who still lived at home.

I am now working full time and loving it. I have met some nice men at church, but I now have serious trust issues, so I prefer to go it alone.

The children's relationship with Allan is still strained. He now has Alzheimer's and needs them, but they cannot forgive him for destroying our family.

Abby, do people who have affairs with married men or women ever consider the pain that is left in their wake? -- STILL RECOVERING IN HOUSTON

DEAR STILL RECOVERING: Rarely. I think it's safe to say that there's a distinct lack of empathy. They justify or rationalize their behavior by convincing themselves that the injured party somehow deserves the pain.

DEAR ABBY: A good friend of mine, "Robert," recently returned from a three-week vacation. When he left, he had hardly any hair. When he returned, he had a full head of hair. It is blatantly obvious that he got a hairpiece.

Would it be rude to compliment him on his "new" hair? If he had gotten new glasses we would all compliment him on those. But how do you go about complimenting someone's new hair? -- TRYING TO BE A GOOD FRIEND IN AKRON, OHIO

DEAR FRIEND: It is an extremely delicate subject. You might want to approach it as if you're hugging a porcupine -- very gently. Say, "Gee, you look rested. You look great." And leave it at that. He'll get the message, and you won't ruffle his feathers or anything else.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

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