Nad-e Ali Christmas
After devouring my Christmas dinner, I shall go for a walk just as I may do on Christmas day at home. This time, however, we had a job to do and we still needed to dominate the ground in order to disrupt any Taliban operations. So on this particular Christmas Day of 2011, going for a walk after my Christmas dinner, was slightly more tactical and in the form of a patrol in Helmand Province.
We didn’t go far and we certainly didn’t go looking for a fight. The last thing we wanted on Christmas Day, was a scrap with the Taliban and we, of course, didn’t want to risk losing any of our men to an avoidable firefight or I.E.D (Improvised Explosive Device). Thankfully, we encountered no such threats, while still achieving to show our presence on the ground and we were able to return to our CP (Checkpoint) in order to enjoy some Christmas banter.
No Christmas tree, no tinsel and no Christmas lights, we just had to make do with what we had and what we did have, was each other. There is nothing quite like a ‘Band of Brothers’ being stuck together in a situation that can’t be avoided. As ‘Brothers in Arms, we had an art to making the best out of the worst situation and this resulted in that particular Christmas Day of 2011 being one of my most memorable Christmas Days to date.
We didn’t have much, and in fact, there wasn’t anything in particular which was remotely different to any other day in Nad-e-Ali, Helmand Province. However, when the resupply convoy turned up at the front gate of our Checkpoint, it was safe to say, that we were pleased to welcome them in. The Military version of a Santa Claus riding his sleigh was a Company Sergeant Major and OC (Commanding Officer), of a similar build, riding a heavily armoured vehicle, bearing gifts such as ammunition, water, and most importantly, our Christmas Dinner.
I would usually dread the rare checkpoint visit from our Company Sergeant Major, but on this one occasion, it was rather nice to see someone who was slightly comparable to Santa Clause himself.
The Christmas dinner wasn’t much but it consisted of the essentials. A thin slice of turkey, a couple soggy potatoes and the odd pig in a blanket, all complimented with some lukewarm gravy. Not exactly what you may consider being a perfect Christmas Dinner, nonetheless, it was certainly more appreciated than our everyday average rations. The fact that these men were willing to go out on a convoy on Christmas day, knowing the risks of coming under attack or driving over an I.E.D, in order to deliver some morale to the men on the frontline, absolutely deserves respect and appreciation.
I have never been one to fuss about Christmas in my adult age and admittedly, I am still a bit of a humbug even to this day. Nevertheless, I surely do enjoy my Christmas dinner every year now, more so than ever before. Although my Christmas in Afghanistan wasn’t particularly amazing, at least I wasn’t being shot at and we as a multiple were able to live through the day without encountering any traumatic events. There are many men and woman who may have experienced their Christmas on operations in a less forgiving way.
I am grateful for the fact that my Christmas in Afghan was what I consider to be a breeze and in comparison to those who were not so fortunate and were actually forced to fight on the day, not just on ‘Op Herrick’ in Afghanistan, but during previous conflicts throughout time.
To that end, as Christmas comes every year, I can’t help but share a thought for those who have operated away from home on Christmas, and for those who are currently working overseas on Christmas Day. I always like to toast a drink to those men who I stood beside on Christmas, 2008 and 2011, but even more so, to those who were sadly unfortunate to not return home.
Written by Jamie R Kenned