By Staff Sgt. Mark BurrellDecember 17, 2010
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Army News Service, Dec. 17, 2010) --- Eastern Afghanistan's scenery is stunning. Its beauty lies in lush river valleys, rocky, terraced farms and snow-peaked mountains. Though it is a combat zone, the beauty is unparalleled.
Yet, there is a darker side to this land. Hungry Afghan children with wide, inquisitive eyes and dirt-caked faces stare back at U.S. Soldiers with curiosity and wonder. The children huddle close to each other, building up enough confidence to stare back and maybe even smile.
Are the children here much different than anywhere else' No, they were just born into less-fortunate circumstances. Their lives don't include white picket fences and manicured lawns.
As the holidays approach, think about those less fortunate around the world. For the most part, Americans are lucky to be born Americans and haven't earned it.
A few weeks ago, U.S. Soldiers cleared a portion of the Pech River Valley in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar Province. The area is typical of the region with rocky and mostly undeveloped farmland threatened continuously by Taliban fighters.
Most of the children there only have a few sets of clothes. Most of those sets are tattered or ripped and in constant need of repair. Some of the villages have running water, but imagine taking a cold bath with one bar of soap about once every week.
Some Soldiers on the patrol were empathetic to the plight of these children and used the opportunity to hand out food. The children tentatively accepted the small gifts and, once they figured out what the packages were, they clutched them close to their small bodies.
This year, try not to think about what cool, new trinket would dazzle your friends. Instead, be appreciative for what you already have.
Recently, some other Soldiers did just that at Combat Outpost Fortress, also in Kunar Province. Army 1st Sgt. Corey G. Myers explained this season he is grateful for what he has and reflected on what he can do for others.
Myers has a family with two growing boys and expenses that go along with that. Yet, even while deployed to Afghanistan, he has set aside money to help children from different nations experience their dream.
"All children want is to go to Disneyland or some place like that," said the Fort Campbell, Ky., native assigned to Company B, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, Task Force No Slack.
One of the funds that he donates to allows for terminally ill children to visit Orlando, Fla., to live out their dream.
"Every Thursday is Christmas there with a Santa Claus because some of these children won't live to see their next Christmas or birthday or holiday," Myers said.
Because he donates to children's funds like this every year, he said he encourages his Soldiers to donate to whatever cause they believe in.
"I believe in karma," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jacob M. Murphy, tactical operations center noncommissioned officer in Myers' company.
Murphy, a native of San Bruno, Calif., has two children and another one on the way. This year, he donated to a fund to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome because he said he believes in something greater than himself.
"You do good to others and they do good to you," Murphy said.
With all the pains in the economy and bills rolling in, it's important to do as these Soldiers have already done - put others first.
Walking around Afghanistan, it's easy to see firsthand what a couple of dollars or a few packages of food can do for children throughout the world. And as Myers said, he can take the $20 he spends in tobacco a month and put it toward something greater than himself.
This season when coming together to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, try to remember the examples of these Soldiers deployed thousands of miles away. Try to remember that even though they live in a war zone, some still find it in their hearts to give what they can to make life a little easier for those less fortunate.
(Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell writes for the 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)