REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--This holiday season a single Christmas tree will light the Afghanistan darkness - and the hearts of the Soldiers of ISAF Joint Command.

"The lighting of a tree has always reminded us that there is still hope, there is still light in the midst of darkness," said Lt. Col. Mickey Jett, chaplain for the command in Kabul, Afghanistan. "We will light the tree right before dusk and remember God's blessings upon our nation, remember what we are fighting for, the right to worship God according to the dictates of our heart, the right to sing and know we are blest."

The tree lighting won't just bring some Christmas spirit to the Soldiers, but also a special present from Redstone Arsenal and the Huntsville community.
It was less than two weeks ago that Laura Ayers, headquarters AMC program lead for Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages and the Government Industry Data Exchange Program, received an e-mail from Jett, who she had worked with at HQ AMC-forward, letting her know that they were hoping to have a special tree lighting ceremony and wanted to distribute care packages filled with basic necessities to their Soldiers. Ayers responded immediately that 150 special surprises, as well as a Christmas tree would be delivered in time for Christmas.

"The items he asked for were basic need," Ayers said. "It just seemed this holiday we could help bring comfort to 150 Soldiers."

Christmas carols will fill the air as each Soldier is invited to pick up a special present under the tree. Each package will not only be filled with Santa hats, deodorant, gum, soap, card games, fruit snacks and DVDs, but also with the most basic of all necessities, love.

"Many of you have been here, and know what it is like, and so the love that goes in those care packages can be seen and felt by all of us," Jett said. "It renews our attitude during this time of year to do the mission the way it should be done."

Ayers reached out to the Redstone community and the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations Coalition, who quickly sprung into action to get the care packages ready in time for Christmas. John Perry, president of the veterans coalition, got in touch with Army Community Service as well as the president of the company he works for, INTUITIVE. Thanks to the generosity of INTUITIVE and president Harold Brewer, the company purchased not just some, but all, the supplies for the care packages.

"We are honored to be able to help our Soldiers in Afghanistan and wish them a blessed, safe and merry Christmas," Brewer stated. "Thanks to all for the brave work that you do for us at home."

Once Santa's long list for the troops had been checked not just once, but twice, the packages were ready to be assembled. Within days volunteers were packing up boxes at ACS and shipping them to a very grateful Jett.

"These gifts remind us that we are a unique nation," Jett said. "Not every nation does what our nation does. I do not see many of the other nations getting care packages. It makes me proud to be an American. Not that they don't receive, but because our nation does not forget us."