EXCLUSIVE–U.S. Colonel: Christmas in Afghanistan a ‘Bittersweet’ Affair
Christmas in Afghanistan is not as simple to celebrate as it is stateside, according to a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command (JC). It takes dedication and heart to celebrate holidays abroad.
For one, it takes putting up a Christmas tree in a non-Christian land.
“It is bittersweet, because missing your friends, family, and loved ones is more acute during the holidays,” U.S Army Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S.-NATO-led ISAF Joint Command Public Affairs Office told Breitbart News via email.
“You know that your companions are feeling the same way, and everyone pulls together to get each other through the holiday,” further said Col. Garver.
When asked whether “any restrictions imposed by the host country or commanders” existed, the NATO-US-led ISAF officer said, “Our commanders and leaders are culturally aware and ensure our troops are respectful of our host nation's laws and customs.”
Breitbart followed by asking “Do Afghans get involved at all?”
“I haven't experienced any Afghans involved in our Christmas celebrations, as they were during Thanksgiving celebrations, but I know of cancelled meetings between our headquarters and our Afghan counterparts out of respect for our celebrating the holiday,” responded Col. Garver.
“The dining facilities on our base have multiple Christmas trees (of the artificial variety),” he added. “There are lights in some windows and many of our offices are decorated.”
Keeping themselves and America safe is just part of the job through the holidays.
“The troops here celebrate Christmas as they can -- by spending time with their friends, communicating with their families as they can, and doing their jobs and maintaining force protection levels,” the colonel said. “While commanders and leaders try to give their troops as much time off as they can (our headquarters cancelled several routine meetings for Dec. 25th) key missions still need to be accomplished and we cannot allow any reduction of our force protection levels.
According to Col. Garver, our troops do get a chance to communicate with their loved ones back home:
“Troops make time to communicate with their families, friends, and loved ones back home,” said the ISAF spokesman. “Troops often have opportunities to call or video chat with families and friends.”
When asked about decorations around base, the ISAF spokesperson said, “There are lights in some windows and many of our offices are decorated. I would especially like to thank the American people who participate in the many programs sending care packages and letters to the deployed troops -- many of the packages that have been donated to troops in our unit included stockings, Santa hats, and decorations. It is incredibly touching to open a care package donated by some citizen and see holiday decorations -- you know that the person who sent it wants you to have as good a holiday as you can even though you're deployed to a war zone.”
Despite the Christmas spirit among our troops, the enemy never sleeps.
“While celebrating the holiday is important, there is no greater mission than protecting our troops while deployed. As one of our commanding generals, Maj. Gen. James McConville of Regional Command - East, told the Associated Press today [Dec. 24], ‘We can't forget that the enemy's not celebrating Christmas,’ wrote the press officer to Breitbart.
“Our security troops are continuing their mission of defending our bases, manning guard towers and checkpoints, and patrolling our perimeters. We are continuing to employ the tools we use to prevent attacks, such as our advanced surveillance equipment,” added the spokesperson. “Finally, our Afghan partners are helping to keep us secure, providing layers of security around our bases by conducting partnered operations with our forces and unilateral operations by themselves to maintain security.”
Furthermore, Col Garver added, “My troops added six small snowmen ornaments to my computer monitors today -- the snowmen are wearing camouflage hats and vests! The number of Christmas cards we've received here from Americans who only want to bring a little holiday cheer to a deployed troop they've never met is truly staggering and humbling.”
The Christmas spirit in Afghanistan is kept alive by our heroes.
“All throughout the day, people walking around our base wore Santa hats and Elf hats; I even saw someone wearing a set of reindeer antlers. Many of the offices are having holiday parties and exchanging gifts. Our office watched the movie ‘Scrooged’ together on Saturday, and the office next to us watched ‘A Christmas Story’ tonight,” Col. Garver told Breitbart. “There are also multiple religious services throughout the holidays for different faiths. Commanders and leaders are also traveling around the area to meet with troops and pass along their holiday greetings.”
Moreover, Col. Garver said, “I would also be remiss if I didn't add that we have lost eight [NATO] Coalition troops in the last week. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones who are grieving for them. Our condolences go out to the families and loved ones of all the Coalition troops and Afghan partners we have lost this past year. We remember them and we honor them for their service and their sacrifice.”