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29 Dec 2012
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Christmas, 2012!
How does the Army do Christmas in a land-locked country deep inside central Asia?

We started the week before with a service at the main chapel with a band of local musicians - Terre in Pacem - to give us a Christmas concert of carols and sacred music. The chapel on Main BAF was packed for the hour-long event and went through a dozen songs. The only band member known to me was the Main BAF hospital commander playing lead guitar, but all the musicians were in fine form. There was a campfire afterwards behind the chapel with hot cider, hot chocolate, hot dogs, and marshmallows.

On Christmas Eve, General Allen came to visit (four stars, ISAF commander) and shake hands with the folks at our clinic. He had good things to say about the work Behavioral Health was doing and even took a candy cane of the one-foot-high Christmas tree my wife sent from Texas.

That evening was a Christmas Eve service at the chapel on our side of the base and it was well attended. My part was to act as usher, helping others light their candles during "Silent Night." It was a meaningful and moving service and, though the night was cold, warmth came through the renewal of faith.

Christmas had occasion for loss of all communications, but things were up again by the end of the day. The day was spent making a United Through Reading disc of van Dyke's Other Wise Man (1896) for my wife. It was read in three parts. After getting 20 minutes into the first part, the power went off. The second part ended 2/3 of the way through the book, then the last part was the next day. The last part was read on Christmas with me in full body armor and helmet, but that's connected to why the communications were down.

Anyway, my wife sent presents that arrived ON CHRISTMAS EVE and yes, we had mail delivery then, so there were presents under....er....around the foot-high tree. Other packages had arrived from the Shaffer family in Florida and the Kilgores in Alabama, so Christmas was special as it always has been. The only time on Christmas I went into work was to deliver the tin of cookies my wife sent so the hospital staff could enjoy them. The down time allowed me to finish All of Grace by Charles H. Spurgeon and the Didache, written by the Apostolic Fathers.

The staff at the dining facility (D-Fac) really went all the way and made the place look great, with active duty staff wearing elf and Santa costumes and offering us a selection of turkey, ham, roast beef, prime rib, shrimp cocktails, and a delicious seafood gumbo, none of which are easy to get in this part of the world. That, eggnog, and sparkling grape juice ensured that lunch was the ONLY meal eaten on Christmas Day.

The temperatures are in the teens and we had steady, driving snow to blanket the ground. It's pretty cold, but it looks so much more like Christmas now than it did a month ago!

Merry Christmas to all and every good wish to you for success in 2013.

Charlie's Assignment in Afghanistan
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