Below is another update from my cousin in Afghanistan. I’ve posted these from time-to-time and thought this week might be especially interesting. Let us all be grateful on Christmas morning that there are good men and women like Derek all around the world defending America, her people, and her allies.

I’m sure he’d appreciate a short encouraging note if you had the time.

A large group of squadron members are sitting in our new lounge, watching Christmas Vacation and reminiscing of the last time we put up as many lights as Chevy Chase for Christmas. I think it the second or third time since setting up the lounge a couple of days ago, but the movie never gets old. Or maybe it does, but it allows us to think of any quirky trait of our families, of any funny relationship we have back at home, and the corny things that make those relationships worth what they are to us.

We have received the daily gifts for the 12 days of Christmas, and they have been awesome. There is something there for all of us, and we are excited to get the remainder of the goodies over the next 3 days. The only disappointment was when we found out that the ‘coal’ was really lava rocks painted like coal, serving little/no purpose in our fire pit.

While many units here in theater are taking a small break, we are not slowing down a bit. No days off, no down time, no break from our Groundhog Day routine. But that is OK, as we would prefer to be engaged in what has us far from home at this time, and to have a mission to focus on instead of what we are missing at home with family and friends. What that means for each of you is that the call home on Christmas may not be exactly at the optimum time, or may not be of the desired length, but all should have a chance to call at some point. So please don’t tie up the lines ordering us any last minute gifts. They are not necessary.

Our new building is working out fine, although it is just like anytime you buy a house. You start to move in the furniture, and realize that it looked much bigger empty than filled with your stuff. The building has indoor plumbing most of the time, with the occasional water outage. But that is OK, we have a ‘cadillac’ close by, which is a portable shower/bathroom trailer for our camp. I used it for the first time today, and when I went inside, I could only think of Ocho or Gofur doing a Chris Farley impersonation from “Tommy Boy” when he was trying to change clothes in an airliner bathroom. Pretty small working space. But they are still better than the outhouses, which smell great during the summer. For the rest of our building, some rocket surgeon decided that white was a good color for the walls, doors, and, well everything. They are now an uneven brown color from all of the dust here. We are looking at how we can cover the brown up with some art work or something.

As the type of flying has slowed down recently, we have had the chance to go to other parts of the country, and it is a shame that a booming tourist industry has not taken hold here. Sapper and I flew north just as the sun was rising, and we could see 18-22 thousand-foot peaks off to the east, all snow-capped an ominous, but beautiful. We overflew an area of canyons and mountain lakes that resembled the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and the rough mountains of our own country, and it made us homesick. As we fly over some of these mountainous areas, we marvel at the agricultural fields at elevations above the state of Colorado, and wonder if those farmers struggling to eke out an existence even knew we were there, or if they just assumed we were just more Soviet Aircraft from the 80s. I’m sure none of them have ever seen the effects of electricity or a telephone, and I’d bet that despite the harsh living conditions, there is a level of happiness and simplicity that is envious. But I’ll keep my flush toilets, electric blankets, and the world wide web. I guess we have to find simplicity in other ways. Like dumb jokes, dark chocolate, and cigars for many.

We hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas time, or whatever this holiday season means for you. We miss each of you, but look forward to roasting a pig in April, and not returning to this place for some time to come. But for now, we still have some unfinished business. Until next time.

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