U.S. Army Photo
Gary “Stretch” Wallin tells tales to a young Afghan
girl on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2004. The
Soldiers of the 211th and Task Force
Pirate took time to visit with the children and
distributed gifts that were donated from various
U.S. organizations in the United States.
AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – More than 200 troops based at Bagram
Airfield shared toys, shoes and food in a Christmas Eve
cultural exchange with a local village during Operation
Goodwill on Friday, December 24.
Attack Helicopter Battalion, as part of Task Force Pirate,
has sponsored the village of Jegdalek in the Parwan
province, for the past seven months. Task Force Pirate
leaders estimate they have donated more than 80,000 pounds
of shoes, school supplies, food and other humanitarian
assistance material to date.
troops celebrated the Ramadan season with more than 600
citizens of Jegdalek in the month of November, and in turn
they wanted to share Christmas with the villagers as a
cultural exchange of sorts. “We asked if we could celebrate
Christmas in this village and they welcomed us with open
arms,” said Col. B. Shannon Davis, commander, Joint Task
Force Wings, and the senior member of Operation Goodwill.
“Their children are here celebrating with us. We respect
their culture and they’re respecting ours, we’re really
sharing each other’s culture out here today.”
troops put on a Christmas program that included Santa Claus,
singing songs accompanied by a keyboard and brief
explanations of the origins of Christmas and its importance
to Americans. The service members were given similar
explanations about Ramadan by the village Mullahs just a
month ago, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Layne Pace, safety
officer for Task Force Pirate and Salt Lake City native.
addition to the Christmas program, the troops brought more
than 300 prepared bags of toys, stuffed animals, school
supplies and hygiene kits to distribute as presents to the
children of the village. Service members also passed out
shoes and candy to the children. “We really appreciate that
the Americans came to our village to celebrate their holy
days,” said Mullah Hamishagull, Jegdalek’s Islamic leader.
service members spent five hours with the people of Jegdalek
on Christmas Eve, which is the longest amount of time they
have been able to remain on the ground on any of the
previous visits. This provided enough time for the
villagers to prepare some of their own food for a meal,
something the locals have wanted to share with the Soldiers
since the relationship began. The troops shared chicken,
rice and bread and with the villagers to complete the
village leaders mentioned that they know that we’re away
from our families and our homes during the Christmas holiday
and they’re helping us celebrate here in Jegdalek,” said
Davis. “Just being here makes it easier on our Soldiers
this holiday season and it promotes the Afghan-American
U.S. Army Photo
and Task Force Pirate Soldiers traveled to an
orphanage near Kabul to deliver Christmas goodies
and winter clothing.
Task Force Pirate’s spirit of giving extended
beyond the official holiday festivities. On the day after
Christmas, 211th Soldiers and their colleagues
returned to the Allahuddin Orphanage, located just outside
of Kabul, to distribute winter clothing and Christmas
Pace continues to assist Asedullah, an eleven
year old boy from Jegdalek, in receiving life-saving heart
surgery here in the United States. Working with a growing
international coalition including Task Force Pirate, Afghan
locals, Egyptian medical professionals, and an assortment of
individuals and organizations back in the U.S., Pace has
arranged for transportation, lodging, surgery and financing
for Asedullah’s treatment. His father, Sirbazkhan, will
accompany him. Asedullah’s mother will remain in country to
care for his many sisters and brothers.
The boy’s journey began on Dec. 24th
when he was airlifted from his village to an Egyptian
hospital near the airbase. After two days, he traveled with
his father and a prominent Afghan citizen to another
hospital in Kabul. Later this week, the trio will travel to
Islamabad, Pakistan. Once travel requirements are met,
Asedullah and his father will catch a flight to Loma Linda,
California. Father and son are expected remain in the
Golden State for four to six weeks.
U.S. Army Photo
chaplain Maj. Mark Allison leads the chorus of
Coalition forces in the village of Jegdalek.
Linda University Hospital in California and Gift of Life,
Inc., a rotary charity who gives open-heart surgery to
children in third world countries, teamed up to provide
at-no-cost the surgery and post-operative care for Asedullah.
To date, the Gift of Life has helped over 6,000 children
from over 55 countries. Many other groups and individuals
have contributed funds to defray the costs of treatment and
trip, including Angels for Afghanistan, a non-profit
organization formed by the families of 211th
Soldiers here in Utah.
Lorraine Januzelli contributed to this story.
U.S. Army Photo
CH-47 Chinook helicopter hooks up to a conex full of
gifts to distribute to Afghan children in the
village of Jegdalek on Christmas Eve, December 24,
2004. The soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines
took time to visit with the children and distributed
gifts that were donated from various U.S.
organizations in the United States.