As with most homes, the heart of our house is the kitchen. On the single most high traffic area of the house, the fridge, smack dab in the middle, my mom has placed this quote,
When I speak of home, I speak of the place where – in default of a better – those I love are gathered together; and if that place were a gypsy’s tent, or a barn, I should call it but the same good name notwithstanding. – Charles Dickens
I am currently 7,180 miles, 1 ocean, a couple continents, and 8 ½ hours of time zones away from home. Most days I don’t dwell on that fact or even give it more than a moment’s reflection, but during the holidays that distance because a nagging throb in the forefront of my head that chants, “You’re missing out on everything. You miss home. Your family misses you. What are you doing?”
Last Christmas I considered trying to forget it was an event all together. I thought if I skipped Christmas I could skip the homesickness. Well, life doesn’t work like that. (You can read the full story of how that worked out here.) As I tried to conjure up ways to make myself feel better it finally hit me that the other 25,000 people on this base are feeling the exact same way. There’s no excuse of ‘no one understands me,’ because get this, every one does. We are all missing our family traditions: Midnight Mass, getting to search through our stockings but nothing else until our parents wake up on Christmas morning, Dad always joking that we have to eat breakfast first before present opening and us kids begging him no, Christmas day gift exchange with the cousins, watching White Christmas and singing the ‘Sisters, Sisters’ song with my sister, and the sight, smell, and silence of a perfect winter snow.
The thought that got me through it all was simple, my family supports me so I can support them. From the outpouring of love in e-mails, cards, care packages, phone calls, Skype dates and more I have my spirit renewed and my hope strengthened.
Last year we asked friends, families, churches, community organizations and anyone else we could think of to send care package items to us so we could make gifts for our troops. We received enough to give a present to every Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman that walked through our center doors on Christmas Day.
My own parish sent numerous boxes of items including a homemade fruit cake! My aunt sent packages with a note that said she always donates to a charity instead of giving her adult daughters Christmas presents, and this year she was sending care packages to our troops. I couldn’t help but swell with pride knowing that my family and friends made Christmas happen out here.
No experience can match the feeling I had after handing a troop a bag and watching their face light up and, “For reals? This is for me?!” come out of their mouth. It meant so much to them to receive the gift not just from USO Kandahar, but from the American people. It might have been just a small gesture, but it sent a huge comforting message to the troops that they weren’t forgotten. People still care. Just like school children at lunch, most of them sat down and immediately began trading Slim Jims for candy canes and hand sanitizer for razors.
This year we want to do the same, only better! This is where we need help. We need gifts from people back home to fill the bags. I have posted the flyer below with our mailing address and wish list.
This Christmas I will again be thousands of miles from the place I call home. I will be in a large tent, in the middle of a desert, surrounding by dirt, dust and the constant threat of violence. But it is there that people will be gathered, they might not be my loved ones, but they are somebody's. So here we will gather in our home away from home, “Until Every One Comes Home.”