Holiday Cheer For The Heroes
(December 25, 2009)
KABUL, Afghanistan (12/24/2009 - AFNS) -- I started this
year's holiday season off right; waking up Thanksgiving
morning in a tin building with 200 Army Soldiers at a combat
outpost in eastern Afghanistan.|
I'm an Airman, journalist and photographer deployed to the
International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in
Kabul. My two-week mission was to document and tell the
story of the Afghan National Security Forces. I visited many
locations including battalion headquarters and combat
outposts. I witnessed everything I expected, and then some.
I went out anticipating combat patrols and handing out
I went out anticipating the Afghan's taking greater control
of their country. Check.
I went out anticipating the Afghan's tracking down bad guys.
Then there were the holiday cards and smiles. I didn't
At each location I visited, there were all these cards and
banners reassuring the Soldiers America loved them,
supported them and prayed for their safe return. I saw
Soldier upon Soldier holding these cards up and showing
their friends what amusing little anecdote was scribbled
within. The only possessions these Soldiers had were what
they could carry on their back and holiday cards from school
children from across our beautiful nation.
Unfortunately, I'm no stranger to sacrifice. After 12 years
and five deployments in the Air Force, I've only spent four
Christmas' with family. I've become hardened. But this
letter isn't about me; this is about the guys in the field I
took photos of, and who would never admit what I'm about to
tell you because they're disciplined, strong and sacrifice
all they know for causes so big, the effects will be felt
These letters, cards, candies, cookies ... especially
cookies ... reach these guys and bring smiles to their faces
when happiness in warzones is a rare commodity.
But these days, sending care packages via mail to such
remote sites is really hard, especially since you need to
know someone here before you can send anything (for security
reasons, sending them to units or "any Soldier" is no longer
allowed). The Department of Defense has a site though, that
allows you to send video messages to servicemembers. It's a
great way to show support over the holidays and is a lot
faster than mail, which can take a month or more, sometimes,
to arrive here.
I went to the site skeptically and opened up the videos and
discovered they delivered something a card, some candy or a
cookie never could. They delivered an experience, a portal,
a visual of happy, smiling, free people taking the time to
say happy holidays and thank you. These are the people we're
here for, and in one video I saw snow and a full-sized
Christmas tree decorated to the nines! It was a video of the
holiday season. When you're out here, as much as everyone
says happy holidays, it's still a cold, sandy, treeless
place. Seeing all of those videos, and the happy people
saying thanks brought a tear to my eye. To those who
submitted the videos, thank you for the moment. For a little
while, I felt the warmth of the holiday season.
I found out the videos are not limited to the site either.
The best ones are shown on the Pentagon Channel, which is
broadcast all around Afghanistan and Iraq (and also to my
wife back in England, where we've been stationed since
Obviously, the Internet in a warzone can be as difficult to
receive as a package of grandma's cookies. But for those
Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen I met out there, every
little bit of support does make an impact, regardless of
whether it's during the holidays or not.
From all of the ground pounders here in Afghanistan (and
even us Airmen), have a great holiday season and please hug
your families a little tighter, smile at your neighbor a
little wider and share the joy and happiness of the holiday
season with everyone you see. Not all of the places in this
world share the same peace and happiness that we do back
home ... yet.
By USAF TSgt. Nathan Gallahan|
International Security Assistance Force Joint Command,
Air Force News Service
Comment on this article