Christmas cheer arrives in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Members of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-435 received more than 30 packages from Goodfellow Air Force Base and the San Angelo community as part of the Christmas For Our Troops Program which helps make the holiday season while deployed a little more enjoyable.  (Courtesy photo)

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Members of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-435 received more than 30 packages from Goodfellow Air Force Base and the San Angelo community as part of the Christmas For Our Troops Program which helps make the holiday season while deployed a little more enjoyable. (Courtesy photo)

KABUL, Afghanistan -- On behalf of the men and women assigned to Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-435, we salute every man, woman and child who participated in the Christmas For Our Troops Program, and a special thanks to the committee members for their continued support of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

Since the beginning of December, I've received a steady stream of CFOT packages and was dumbfounded by the generosity of the community of San Angelo. I mean I live there and it shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. As a former participant putting packages together last year, I know how much tender loving care went into the entire process from start to finish.

When the first packages arrived, I e-mailed the 17th Training Group and let my secretary, Diane Hoelle, know I'd received 16 packages, and to thank her as I saw her signature on all the shipping documents. I let her know I'd only asked for eight packages but received many more (she never mentioned I'd be getting even more). As I hung up, I began to wonder who to give the other eight packages to. Low and behold the next day my problem multiplied as another 22 packages arrived in the mail. I think I was the envy of everyone in the command and people started whispering out loud, "Who in the world keeps sending Lt Col Young packages?"

As excited as I was that packages kept coming, my dilemma of sharing still didn't go away. Being Air Force true and blue, I decided to give Air Force members assigned to our headquarters a package and those who always had a smile on their face, day after day, without fail.

So the plan was set in motion, I called each member to our office under the false pretense that we were having issues with their security clearance. I wouldn't recommend that method in the future, I had them lining up at the door. As each member was given a package, I informed them it came from the awesome community of San Angelo. Although many didn't know where San Angelo was, I simply explained that it's only the best kept secret in the Air Force located in West Texas and now on USAA's top 10 list of locations where military members retire.

What great fun! All in all, the CFOT packages were a huge success and will make Christmas in Afghanistan brighter for our military members, American and Afghan Interpreters, contractors, and our civilian Deputy Commander who has never had the pleasure of receiving or opening a CFOT package. I decided he should experience it at least once. He was a bit apprehensive about opening the package because I told him I wasn't exactly sure what he might find inside as no two packages were alike. Much to his surprise, and with a smile on his face, he pulled out an all time favorite classic movie, "Caddy Shack," and a wonderfully handmade and painted wooden Yo-yo, Dominos and other food products. The Yo-yo had a very catchy phrase on one side, "work till you drop," which I thought suited him perfectly.

Somehow, as each package was opened, it contained something that was needed: a black watch cap, a sweater, warmer clothing, a football and best of all, letters from school-aged children who have an extreme curiosity about our daily life in Afghanistan.
There are still a few hold outs waiting for Christmas Day to arrive before opening their package, and I'm waiting for my birthday in January; sorry kids, but my return letters will be a little late.

To the community of San Angelo, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for 70 years of continued support to the United States Military!

Proudly reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, you accomplished your mission with flying colors, RED, WHITE and BLUE.