Afghanistan - Slouched inside a sandbagged bunker, at the top of an alpine military placement, Pte. James Arnal slurps down instant noodles from a Styrofoam cup. He does not seem infused with Yuletide joy.
Who could blame him? In this lonely spot, inside a country so distant and foreign from his own, and in the midst of an interminable war, Arnal feels adrift. Were it not for a few decorations and greeting cards that hang from a piece of string in his bunker, one would hardly know that it's Christmas time at all.
"I've never been away from home at Christmas before," says the 23-year-old Winnipeg native, nibbling at the last of his noodles.
Manning an observation post in dusty Kandahar province is not the first place he'd chose to spend the season, but so it is. "I'll be calling in the reindeer," he said.
Otherwise, he plans to spend Monday the same way he spends every day here: Gazing out at the Now it is Christmas, in Kandahar. Pte. Arnal misses his family, his girlfriend, and his buddies back home. He sends them messages when he can, and places a phone call now and then. It's not the same.
But something happened recently that lifted his spirits. He received a letter, from a Canadian teenager grateful for his efforts.
Actually, the letter wasn't addressed to him. "It was 'To Any Canadian Soldier,' Pte. Arnal recalls. "I opened it and read the letter. It was really nice. It was from someone in Quebec named Tristynn Duheme."
Duheme, it turns out, is a 15-year-old Grade 10 student who lives in St. Anicet, about 80 kilometres west of Montreal. She wrote the letter as part of a class project. Arnal took the time to reply and express his thanks for the thoughtful gesture.
On Saturday, he received another mailing from Duheme. This one included a cheery Christmas card, and a care package containing an assortment of goodies: potato chips, candy, chocolate, and best of all, several boxes of Kraft Dinner, a Canadian staple.
Reached at her home Saturday, Duheme says she sent the young private the care package and card because she "felt bad for him, stuck over there with nothing, when I have everything. I'm very happy to hear that he received them."For his part, Arnal says the gesture made him "pretty ecstatic. It made my day."And it should make his difficult Christmas a bit easier to swallow. arid landscape, looking for Taliban fighters. More from the National Post.