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Deployed Airmen Share Sense of Pride

By Air Force Capt. Michael Meridith
American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan , Dec. 25, 2007 – Thousands of miles away from home, airmen in Afghanistan still found ways to celebrate the holiday season, all while providing continuous airpower and combat support for U.S. and Coalition forces throughout the country.

While family and friends back home marked the holiday season with gifts and celebrations, deployed airmen in Afghanistan fueled, loaded, maintained and flew aircraft, while others carried out critical expeditionary combat support and reconstruction missions.

That hard work was punctuated by time for brief holiday celebrations, special meals and church services. But the commitment of airmen to the mission did not go unnoticed, as senior leaders took time to visit and personally thank them for their service.

“Thanks for keeping them flying,” said Army Gen. Dan McNeill, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, during a surprise Christmas Eve visit to F-15E Strike Eagle and A-10 Thunderbolt II aircrew and maintenance Airmen here. “You continue to put steel in the air so we can put steel on the ground and protect our Soldiers outside the wire.”

Support for airmen was also voiced by Air Force Maj. Gen. Maury Forsyth, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command Air Forces, during Dec. 24 and 25 visits to airmen deployed across Afghanistan. “Remember this Christmas with pride in the work that you do,” he said. “Your job is to get the mission done – and it is important. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be here.”

Despite the demands of challenging missions, many airmen found their thoughts inevitably returning to loved ones back home. However, the sadness at being apart was tempered by pride in service.

“It’s a little bit depressing being away from home during the holidays,” said 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Airman 1st Class Matthew Darrah. “But my family thanks me and they are proud of what I am doing. It’s a good feeling to serve.”

Staff Sgt. Charles Knotts, assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron here, shared that sentiment. “What motivates me is that what I am doing is keeping my family safe back home,” he said.

Knotts’ viewpoint was shared by many other airmen, who, even with the affirmations from visiting senior leaders, said that the best “gifts” of the holiday season came from within.

“It makes me feel proud to serve my country. I miss my family but I know they are all proud of us serving here,” said Airman 1st Class Anthony DeValentin, 336th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit.

(Capt. Michael Meridith is assigned to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs)

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