I found this letter from Maj. Kirk R. White, Indiana Army National Guard, Bloomington, Ind. in USAToday
am an Operation Enduring Freedom veteran, having served in Afghanistan
from August 2004 to July 2005. My Army National Guard team made the
2004 Christmas holiday more enjoyable by exchanging gifts and sharing
Christmas dinner at our U.S. mess hall with officers and soldiers from
Afghanistan's national army whom we were mentoring.
Frankly, the Afghans caught us a bit off guard. They realized that Christmas was a big holiday for us. A couple of weeks before, they asked us how we celebrated the holiday. We replied that families gathered, gave thanks, shared a big meal and exchanged gifts. We had a hunch that they were planning to present us with gifts.
So we gathered together candy, cookies and toiletry items our families had sent us so we could share gifts with them. You can imagine how we felt when, sure enough, the Afghans presented us with a small, lighted artificial Christmas tree on Christmas morning. I have no idea where they found it in Kabul, but we were truly moved. The Afghan battalion commander brought his 8-year-old son along to add to the family atmosphere.
My advice to servicemembers abroad: If you're operating in an area that is relatively stable, take advantage of sharing the holiday with your local hosts. Tell stories, share traditions. It will give everyone a chance to reflect on the season's spirit of hope and peace.