Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Santa Brings Festivities to Kandahar
December 24, 2008
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - Santa Claus touched down at Kandahar Air Field Wednesday and spread some Christmas cheer to some of the 2,500 Canadian soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.
Troops on the base enjoyed a festive celebration and in addition to receiving treats from the man in the red suit, they were entertained by Canadian comedian Mike Macdonald and Ottawa singer Kathleen Edwards.
"I'm very honoured to have been asked to come here," Edwards told the crowd of soldiers. "I've had a most incredible time."
The troops, some donning Santa hats and other festive accessories along with their uniforms, enjoyed the festivities.
"The last couple of days have been busy for us," said Capt. John Pilon."The next few hours we'll relax."
The party provided some laughs and a few hours of revelry but it's hard to be away from home for Christmas, one soldier said.
"It sucks," said Master Cpl. Tom Dillon. "It's one of those things you do for your country."
Earlier in the day, Canadian soldiers handed out gifts to Afghan children near the base. An anxious crowd of local Afghans crowded around two military trucks and received toys, school supplies, stuffed animals, clothing, hats, scarves and toiletries.
"It gets cold around here at night this time of year," said Cpl. Lisa Tarianos, one of the soldiers involved in the exercise. "We thought we could try and get out there in an orderly fashion but it didn't work so well," she said with a smile.
She also spoke about the difficulty of being so far away from Canada at Christmas.
"It doesn't feel like Christmas," she said. "We don't have anything Christmas-like here, so we were trying to do something that felt good. We were trying to make it feel like Christmas by giving and doing what we can."
Chief Warrant Officer Mike Hayes, who was in charge of the gift delivery, said it was his first Christmas away from home in his 32-year career. He said the Afghan children were excited to receive the gifts.
"The children were just loving it," he said. "We just happen to pick Christmas Eve," he said. "We knew we had a lot of supplies, we thought it was a good time for us to do it, so we brought them out today on Christmas Eve."