MISSION TO AFGHANISTAN: Thanksgiving: A time for families, a time for remembrance
DAY 12 —Thursday ushered in Thanksgiving in Afghanistan. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines will sit down sometime today and enjoy a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings at one of the dining facilities scattered at each base.This holiday has become one of the most celebrated in American culture with families coming together to enjoy friendship and talk, and for some to enjoy a football game on the television even though the featured teams may be Dallas or Detroit.Thanksgiving at Camp Phoenix, which is on the outskirts of Kabul near the international airport, is a regular work day with a reduced schedule for many servicemen and women. War takes no break. War does not completely recognize a holiday.Capt. Curt Kolvet, commander of the 593rd Transportation Company, told his platoon leaders and sergeants on Wednesday night to ensure their soldiers call home today to talk to their loved ones. Several calling centers on base offer free calls back to the states. With an 11-and-a-half time difference, many calls may originate later in the day from Phoenix.For many soldiers, though, they have made plans to call home and wish their loved one a Happy Thanksgiving.Staff Sgt. Roland Cates, the Class 1 manager who ensures the troops here receive water and Meals Ready to Eat for the field, will contact his family in Fallon. His family, though are spread out, however. While two daughters and his wife are at home, he has two sons in the Army.1st Lt. Christopher Yell of Elko has two small children, and he calls them every Sunday. Today he also will call home.“It’s hard. You call home, and the kids miss you,” Yell said.The cook in the Terry household is thousands of miles away this holiday season. Staff Sgt. Curtis Terry of Las Vegas said “dad won’t be home to cook dinner this year.” He said the family gathering on Thanksgiving rivals that of Christmas.Fernley soldier Staff Sgt. Wes Brockman, whom I have known for years and met his family after he returned from his first deployment with the 593rd some years ago, has children away from home. Because of the different schedules, Brockman said his family celebrated Thanksgiving earlier in the week. Nevertheless, Brockman plans to call his Fernley home today.A guardsman for more than two years, Spc. Kyle Freitas grew up in Gardnerville, but his parents now live in Carson City. Freitas and his wife have two little girls, and he plans to call home today. Later today, Freitas and other soldiers will attend a special church service.Freitas said it has been a tough time for many people at Phoenix, and he tries to help those struggling with being away from home today.“My purpose is to be with those in need,” Freitas said of his Thanksgiving mission.This is also my first Thanksgiving thousands of miles away from home, but I will spend part of the day with Kolvet and 1st Sgt. Harry Schroeder for an early afternoon Thanksgiving meal.With me being thousands of miles from home, I asked my daughter — my youngest child — about Thanksgiving, the first time we have not spent it together. My children were lucky because the military did not beckon my service on Thanksgiving before I retired. It did this year, though, because it was important for me to be with the troops on this special, very American holiday.“It will be difficult knowing that you’re in a war zone instead of being here for the holidays, but I am thankful for having a great support system for helping me through these tough times of you being away to ease away the stress,” said Stephanie, my 21-year-old. “Thanksgiving isn’t the same without you, and that’s what makes it so hard for me, even though I’ll be surrounded by a bunch of family. I rather have you here in the states than a war zone thousands of miles away celebrating this joyous holiday with us.”My son 24-year-old David is celebrating his first Thanksgiving in Carson City with the love of his live and son.“I’m thankful for the family man I have become and I owe that to you. I’m thankful for Meagan and Ayden as they are my rocks that will never break. I am thankful that I am a daddy and I would not be the dad I am if it wasn’t for you and that one saying I never forget … anything is possible. I love you big guy.” As I close out this dispatch from Camp Phoenix, the men and women at both Forward Operating Base Shank and Camp Phoenix who don the Army uniform and put their lives in harm’s way on a daily basis would like to wish their friends and family a happy Thanksgiving.From a grateful state, happy Thanksgiving to our troops thousands of families from home.• Steve Ranson is editor of the Lahontan valley News and a retired Nevada guardsmen. He is currently in Afghanistan covering Nevada’s soldiers.