Christmas I remember best: An Afghanistan Christmas I will cherish forever
And we planned it for Christmas Eve.
The plan was to show the village what a Christian Christmas was by giving the children Christmas presents, and in return the village elders promised to show us Afghan culture and feed us soldiers an Afghan meal.
What an opportunity.
We made 400 bags of gifts for the children. We also gave blankets, coats, and food to the villagers. We loaded 12,500 pounds of goods in a van and slung it beneath a Chinook helicopter to the village. We also transported over 400 coalition soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines to the village via Chinook helicopter.
It was a Christmas Eve I will never forget.
I was “voluntold” to be Santa Claus. I wore my military uniform with weapon and flack vest, but I also wore a ratty old gray fuzzy beard and my Santa hat. I sat at the end of a line of soldiers and wished every child that came by a “Merry Christmas.”
Many couldn't speak English, but they sure tried. And when they said “Merry Christmas” back to me, our soldiers just cheered and cheered. I shook their hands and gave them their bag of presents. I shook over 400 of the grubbiest, dirtiest, roughest, stickiest, little hands and loved every minute of it. The smiles, giggles, and grins of the children made me melt.
The village men danced traditional Afghan dances for us. (There were no women around and women do not mingle and dance with men ever.) They also fixed us huge vats of chicken and vegetables Afghan style (most of the food was donated by us). It was pretty good stuff none the less. But the fact that we were at war and we were celebrating Christmas in a Muslim country was so special for me.
I was with my soldier brothers and sisters doing good for some very poor people and they loved it. We made friends for life, not only among ourselves as soldiers, but also with these wonderful people we came to serve. We ended the day with smiles, handshakes, and hugs. We brought all our soldiers, helicopters, and other equipment back to Bagram Air Base safe and sound. We were exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time.
There was no time to rest though because the very next day, Christmas Day, I was assigned to escort and provided armed helicopter security to Chinook helicopters loaded from tip to tail with yellow bags of mail destined for our soldiers.
Wow, what a mission.
I watched our soldiers at five firebases jump up and down for joy knowing that they were getting Christmas mail delivered to them. These guys are on the front lines doing the dirty work of the war and many times they don’t see mail for weeks on end. What an honor to serve our fellow soldiers by ensuring the safety of the Chinook helicopters getting that important Christmas mail to them.
I ended up flying almost 12 hours that Christmas Day, stopping only for fuel and to deliver Christmas to our soldiers. What an honor.
What a way to spend Christmas delivering humanitarian aid to poor people in a war torn village and then to turn around and deliver mail to our soldiers the very next day.
It was a Christmas season, half a world away from my family, I will never ever forget.
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