Christmas Convoy Delivers Gifts to Remote Combat Outposts in Afghanistan
Friday, December 23, 2011
By Joseph Andrew Lee
There is a young American soldier in the heart of Afghanistan who will be spending his first Christmas away from home this year.
His closest family has become the 20 guys he has lived with at a remote combat outpost on the side of a mountain and the only thing guaranteed for Christmas this year is the over-salted ham slice in his Meal Ready to Eat.
He likely feels isolated, perhaps even a bit war weary as his unit is probably still taking casualties. Odds are he hasn’t seen running water or a telephone in months and as news reaches him of the official end of the war in Iraq, he remains vigilant, braving the frigid Afghan winter and the threat of imminent ambush in the name of freedom.
That soldier doesn’t crave attention, but he deserves to be remembered this Christmas.
Last year during the holidays, the USO asked the 43rd Sustainment Brigade to help the American people deliver Christmas gifts to troops stationed in some of the most remote fighting outposts in Afghanistan.
Having spent the previous 11 months as the lifeline to these devoted soldiers, bringing them their food, mail, and other necessities, the 43rd understood the impact of being remembered during the holiday season and they decided to help out by dedicating five days of convoy operations to show these men and women that the American public supports them. Through its efforts, the USO was able to reach 16 of these extremely remote locations with holiday gifts.
This year, the 7th Sustainment Brigade followed in the footsteps of its predecessor to show these men and women America’s appreciation for the job they do with special holiday deliveries. With the help of sponsors such as Microsoft, Lockheed Martin, the New York Yankees and the USO of Metropolitan New York, along with the donations of the American people, each one of 67 remote units in Afghanistan were touched. Most received TVs, an X-Box 360 console (compliments of Microsoft), holiday boxes full of decorations, cell phones, calling cardsand personal care packages for more than 4,000 individual troops.
The 7th Sustainment Brigade even supplied CH-47 Chinook Helicopters to air-drop gifts to some of the most remote bases, where the wheeled convoys could not reach.
“Because of the creativity and passion of our team in Southwest Asia, the Christmas Convoy has been an incredibly successful program for the past two years,” said Alan Reyes, Senior Vice President of Operations for the USO. “With the ongoing support of generous sponsors and donors, we hope to continue this amazing program throughout the year to support service members far from the comforts of a USO center.”
These holiday gifts and comforts from home, along with the personal messages of thanks delivered by USO Southwest Asia, were well-received.
“I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” said Army SSG Michael Moore, a native of Queens, N.Y. “It means a lot to know that people are thinking about you out here. No one is looking for credit, but to know that people remember what we're doing and want to say thank you, it really makes a difference during the holidays.”
Fellow troop Army SPC Andre Arienza, 21, of Bayonne, N.J., couldn’t agree more.
“Everyone is really missing home,” he said. “And this makes it feel like home – at least for a little while.”
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Eric Raum contributed to this story.
Watch this video by USO Kandahar's Eric Raum of the convoy's impact on our troops.
Also: USO President Sloan Gibson Visits USO Kandahar (blog.uso.org)
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