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Thread: Thanksgiving letter
01-12-2003, 12:37 AM #1
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This was the Thanksgiving letter from my Uncle
Greetings and Blessings from Afghanistan,
Just like thousands of other U.S. servicemen and women, I spent Thanksgiving here in Afghanistan. One soldier spent Thanksgiving recovering from a gunshot wound received after one of our Special Forces convoys was ambushed the day before Thanksgiving. He is recovering nicely in the combat hospital here in Bagram - one more blessing added to the countless blessings we were thankful for on Thanksgiving. We enjoyed a bountiful Thanksgiving meal in a wood frame and plywood dining facility just recently constructed. Many of our service members, however, ate the Thanksgiving meal while deployed out to remote firebases high in the Afghan mountains. Their meals delivered by helicopter sometime during the day. The Thanksgiving meal was 'touch-n-go' there for a while - we'd heard the shipments of Butterball turkeys inbound to Afghanistan were determined to be contaminated. Regardless, a lot of people did some extraordinary things to get replacement turkeys here on time. Then we had a case of food poisoning at one of our bases in southern Afghanistan - all due to undercooked dressing (approximately 100 soldiers became ill). Despite the separation from family members and friends back home, military organizations seem to develop 'surrogate families' wherever they are deployed around the world. An attribute I consider a real strength in military organizations...their ability to form a bond among its members even during the darkest of times. So Thanksgiving in Afghanistan was quite bittersweet - tough because everyone was separated from family and friends back in America - yet rewarding for we all seem to display the same attitude...what better place to be than defending those freedoms all our families and Americans are enjoying!
We did enjoy a little 'Hollywood" attention leading up to and during Thanksgiving. Prior to Thanksgiving, Robin Williams (star of 'Good Will Hunting,' 'Hook,' 'The Fisher King,' 'Aladdin,' 'Good Morning Vietnam,' 'Toys,' 'Mrs. Doubtfire,' and on and on...) flew into Afghanistan to visit all the military forces. He signed autographs, did photo opportunities, and did impromptu comedy routines. I became very involved in his visit since I was responsible for radio communications associated with his security element. When Robin arrived at Bagram he announced to his manager and security element that he intended to stay until every service member had an autograph or a photo opportunity with him. When he arrived at Bagram he was dead tired from traveling yet he pushed himself for two days going anywhere and everywhere possible so that he could tell the troops how important they are and how much he appreciated them. We brought Robin into our Joint Operations Center, gave him the microphone - and it was spontaneous - he broadcast 'Good Morning, Afghanistan' in remarkable familiarity to that in his famous movie, 'Good Morning, Vietnam.' Brought the house down. Then the day after Thanksgiving General Franks (the Theater Commander-in-Chief) rolled into Bagram with a planeload of thankful Hollywood stars. The USO, whose shows were made famous by Bob Hope over a half-century ago, sponsored a group of entertainers to come to Afghanistan to honor the military. Coined 'Operation Starlift 2002,' the USO troupe was headed up by Johnny Grant, Mayor of Hollywood (starred in 'White Christmas' with Bing Crosby). He was joined by Dennis Haskins (star of the series 'Saved By The Bell'), Kay Linder (20-year star of the soap 'Young and the Restless') and Leeann Tweeden (Fox Sports). They spent two days signing autographs and doing photo opportunities with the troops. I know the younger generation may not appreciate this but I had dinner with Johnny Grant and spent the evening talking about Hollywood's truly famous performers. Johnny has been introducing Bob Hope on USO tours for 56 years (this tour most probably his last). He talked of really neat 'behind the scenes' stuff related to Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Gene Autry, and many others. He intimately knows all of Hollywood's greats and due to his position as Mayor of Hollywood, he presents all the actors/actresses with their 'Hollywood Star' on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was a treat to hear some really neat stories about some of Hollywood's great icons. To all of Hollywood's finest who honor the military by dedicating their time and talent through the USO Shows - thank you!
People are beginning to distance themselves from me when I travel off Bagram Air Base. Back in September I was at the American Embassy in Kabul (the Afghan capital) during a bombing attack (15 dead; over 60 wounded). Enjoying the sanctuary of the Embassy compound and the excellent security provided by the Marines, I escaped the bombing unscathed. Again, last week (21 November) I was in Kabul attending meetings at the Embassy. Upon leaving the Embassy we traveled out and down the street through a traffic circle - called 'Liberty Circle' - enroute back to Bagram Air Base. Just minutes after passing through the traffic circle, Liberty Circle came under a rocket attack (a barrage of 107mm rockets/BM-12s). The rocket attack was intended for the Embassy but the impact area was a short distance away. By the time the rockets struck we had already passed through the traffic circle and were approaching the outskirts of Kabul. Since I appear to be the common denominator in both attacks my friends don't seem to want to ride with me anymore.
Afghanistan continues to be a dangerous place. I continue to be amazed at the boldness - and persistence - of the remaining al-Qaeda/Taliban fighters. We've eliminated their ability to conduct large-scale operations and we consistently locate and destroy their ammunition caches - but they still persist in conducting harassing attacks. Many of the bad guys hide out in the rocky mountains just over the eastern Afghan border inside Pakistan. The al-Qaeda/Taliban sneak up to or through the very rugged and porous Afghan-Pakistani border and fire rockets at U.S./Coalition outposts and then slip back across the border. Fortunately, they rarely hit their targets and the damage is minimal. They know we don't have permission to conduct cross border combat operations into Pakistan - thus providing them a safe haven. The recent increase in attacks doesn't appear to represent any sort of coordinated offensive by remnants of al-Qaeda/Taliban - rather, their efforts seem to try to make it appear as though the war on terrorism has not been successful or that the newly installed Karzai government lacks the leadership and power to properly govern the country. In addition to the renegade cross-border attacks, U.S./Coalition forces continue to operate in an environment heavily mined and booby-trapped. Our forces are constantly searching for and finding weapons caches (arms, ammunition, bombs and rockets). Many of the weapons we find are recycled to the new ANA (Afghan National Army) and the rest are destroyed in place. Also, many of the weapons caches are in caves high in the rugged Afghan mountains - many of which are heavily booby-trapped. In order to deny al-Qaeda/Taliban use of the weapons our demolition teams deliberately blow them in place. The possibility of tripping booby-traps when entering the caves and secondary explosions associated with destroying the munitions both create extremely dangerous situations.
The snow continues to creep down the mountains here at Bagram with temperatures in the low 20's at night. The not-so-pleasant trip to an unheated portalet or the often cold shower during those early morning temperatures are great reminders of how harsh the Afghan winters can be. My heart goes out to the volumes of refugees scattered all across Afghanistan now that winter is setting in and the nights have grown so terribly cold. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that more than 5 million Afghan refugees fled the country before Sept. 11, 2001. One and a half million have returned from Pakistani refugee camps; another 225 thousand have returned from Iran; and tens of thousands have returned from other Central Asian countries. Although the refugees are free to find jobs, there aren't enough jobs and the cost of living has gone up now that the Afghan economy is picking up. Without jobs and the increase in the cost of living, the volumes of refugees are certain to face a harsh winter. It is estimated that there are 5,978 Afghan villages above the 8,500 elevation and since there is little money for food or wood/coal to burn, winter for refugees in those villages will surely be a matter of survival!
Just a few weeks ago a 12-year-old Afghan boy stepped on a land mine near the Bagram Air Base. He was carried to the Army hospital in the arms of a U.S. soldier. The little boy lost both eyes, one leg and one arm below the elbow. He retained only three fingers on the hand of his other arm. Alive but traumatized, the little boy could only say his name and that of his father's. Although our engineers are clearing minefields as fast as they can, we just can't get it done fast enough. Please remember all the children and the refugees in your prayers.
A special thanks to all the marvelous children in Ms. Ruppe's First Grade Class at Forest Hunt Elementary School, Forest City, NC...your letters were truly wonderful and I can't thank you enough.
Once again, I want to thank all of you who continue to pray for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines deployed in harm's way all over the world. Your prayers clearly make a difference. God Bless you and God Bless America. RLTW, Bruce
COL Bruce Condrey
Director of Information Systems/CJ6
CJTF-180 / Afghanistan
Operation ENDURING FREEDOM
01-12-2003, 12:44 AM #2
Thank you for sharing this letter. It really touched my heart. God bless them all!
01-12-2003, 07:43 AM #3
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Once again Angie, thank you for sharing your letter.
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