Monday, 27 May 2013

There cannot possibly be a more fitting way to celebrate Memorial Day than with the troops in Afghanistan.

Our Red Cross team worked very hard to put an event together so that those living on Bagram could celebrate the day much as they might have in the States. I took the lead on the event which was from 5:30 to 7:30 this evening and truly, the event could not have been a greater success. We had over 300 people in attendance and the greatest possible compliment was from those who said they felt like they were back at home with their friends and family.

The day began for me in true deployment fashion...because I work the night shift I literally had to get up for the event in the middle of my night - 3pm. I walked to the shower latrines only to find that every shower latrine on the camp was closed. Soooo it was a deployment shower for me - washing in the latrine sink :-/

Once I arrived for set up at 4pm, they time started flying by. Dozens of tables and chairs set up, the band arrived, the grills were fired up. We hung Memorial flags signed by schools and previous deployed soldiers. The tables were covered in miniature American flags. Major Eden, the combat stress dog arrived and spent much of the time trying to mangle plastic water bottles. We had tons of food: burgers, hot dogs, chicken, sausages, steak, bread, pastries, fruit salad and then the coup de gras homemade Oreo truffles, fudge and Flavor- Ice pops. I also organized a raffle with some fantastic prizes. To top everything off, the Fire station brought over a fire engine to help us block off the road. I had obtained permission to close off the road in front of our office building so the whole event had the feel of a traditional American block-party.

The event was a smashing success. With over 300 attendees, the line for food was almost 50 people deep for the first hour. The Armed Forces Network film crew showed up and both my team leader and I got to do a radio interview during the event!

Once it started getting dark and people had eaten their fill, they settled down at tables and along the T-walls (cement barriers to protect from shrapnel)  to listen and sing and dance to the band. The night only ended when the band's First Sergeant apologized profusely and said it was time for the band to leave.

It is so easy to forget the significance of Memorial from the comfort of the U.S. when you are untouched by the tragedies of war ... but out here, when you hold the hand of a soldier dying from IED wounds and the next day they are gone, you cannot escape the significance of Memorial Day and the sacrifice of those who die for their country.


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