God bless us, every one: One-man Christmas Carol evoke's season's cheer in Afghanistan
December 26, 2010
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - "Bah," said Scrooge. "Humbug!"
Author Charles Dickens penned that famous line in his 1843 novella, "A Christmas Carol." The story tells of a stingy, tart Ebenezer Scrooge and his abrupt ethical, moral and spiritual renewal after the ghosts of Christmas descend upon him.
Film, opera, radio and other media have rereleased the story with much success. One such adaptation, a monologue starring actor Patrick Stewart, took the London theater scene by storm 15 years ago. In attendance at one showing was a much younger Kevin Whaley.
"When I saw Patrick Stewart on the stage in that rendition ... wow," said Whaley, now a major in the U.S. Air Force. "I thought, 'I'd love to be Scrooge one day.'"
At the peak of the holiday season in Afghanistan, Whaley brought his dream to fruition. Crowds of servicemembers experienced the major's One-Man Christmas Carol Dec. 19 and 22 in the festivities tent on Kandahar Airfield.
The tent's lights dimmed. A cough hacked from somewhere within the audience. Leathery hands scraped together, generating heat. The weighted silence, palpable.
A sudden flare of light shone upon the stage. There, Whaley materialized and spoke with a deep, resonant voice. Narrator, Scrooge, Tiny Tim, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future - Whaley personified them all.
From the first words of "Marley was dead," to the last, "God bless us, everyone," Whaley delivered line after line from practiced recollection. For the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection manager in Regional Command-South, the feat was his holiday gift.
"This is my Christmas present to [Kandahar Airfield,]" said Whaley, who is from Air Combat Command headquarters in Langley Air Force Base, Va. "For the holidays, in this deployed environment, we get lots of goodies sent to us. But where is the entertainment value' I did this in hopes that people will get into the Christmas spirit."
Dickens explains in his novella preface, "I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it."
Paralleling Dickens' story to today's Afghanistan, Whaley said he hopes to instill a certain amount of cheer in his viewers. During Christmas time, he continued, people tend to talk a little friendlier. In the jostle of everyday Kandahar life, people give just a little more courtesy space when walking around the boardwalk or traveling to and from work. With about 20,000 coalition forces serving here, a sprinkling of care and compassion goes a long way.
Nationality should not affect common courtesies shared by Afghan, NATO and International Security Assistance Forces, Whaley continued. Lighthearted interaction must continue past language barriers for all humankind's sake.
In the story, the ghost of Christmas Present flies with Scrooge on a journey to far and distant lands where Scrooge does not understand a whit of the tongue. However, from the actions of those faraway people, Scrooge sees the true meaning of Christmas.
"I thoroughly enjoyed the One-Man Christmas Carol,'" said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tanya Wyatt, 451st Air Expeditionary Wing director of equal opportunity. "Major Whaley showed amazing talent. His final words touched me the most and reiterated my belief in what the true meaning of Christmas is."
"I would encourage him to continue to share his talent and message for years to come," said Wyatt, who is from Kadena Air Base, Japan.
Throughout Whaley's performance, it is not only the perceptive who notice the evolution of his Scrooge's posture and demeanor. Once stooped from age and an ill-tempered manner, Scrooge casts off his worldly shackles after visualizing his own sad, small, lonely death.
As Whaley held his hands upward in prayer, he delivered his true message to the attending servicemembers.
"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year," he said. "I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."