Jan. 7, 2011

Sustainers from Virginia celebrate holidays abroad

By Staff Reports

SHINDAND AIRBASE , Afghanistan — Christmas has always been a time of giving; so on Dec. 23, 2010, the 529th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion serving on active duty in Afghanistan delivered seven sewing machines, more than 10 rolls of cloth, and sewing materials, along with toys for the children to the locals in the area. The 529th CSSB, led by the efforts of Master Sgt. Clara Vargas from Virginia Beach, raised $3,200 for the mission, which went to Shindand Town, the Capital of Shindand District to help 4,000 widowed women in the community.


Master Sgt. Clara Vargas of Virginia Beach led the efforts of the 529th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion Dec. 23 to deliver seven sewing machines, more 10 rolls of cloth, sewing materials and toys for the children an Afghanistan village near where the Virginia Beach-based battalion in on federal active duty. (Photo courtesy 529th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion)

Several locals from the community will provide training on the equipment provided by Vargas and the Soldiers of the 529th to provide a viable trade to the women in the area.  This will not only give them skills for their home, but could extend down for generations, and provide them a trade that could be used for future jobs, according to Vargas, who worked with friends and family members, who were willing to support the mission, and has been accepting donations of sewing materials, and other items that will help the community.

Vargas also worked closely with Soldiers from other commands as well as enlisting the aid of companies willing to help. Organizations such as Adopt-a-platoon and Bella Fabrics have been spreading the word, as well as sending needed sewing items to the Soldiers to distribute to the impoverished women.

In addition to giving during the Christmas holiday came the observance of different religious ceremonies and celebrations. The 529th CSSB Religious Support Team sponsored a menorah lighting service. 1st Lt. Avraham Behar, of the 183rd Maintenance Company assisted with the services. Each night Behar lit the candles on the menorah, prayed the ancient prayers in the Hebrew language, and shared some personal stories of celebrating Chanukah with the gathered Soldiers.

On Christmas Eve, three services were held at Shindand Air Base Chapel. In between the protestant and Catholic services was a special Christmas sing-a-along in advance of the midnight Catholic mass. This service was Catholic but was open to all. The concluding song of the service was “Silent Night.”

“Can you imagine hearing the familiar hymn, ‘Silent Night’ being sung by Italian, Slovenian, and American forces all in their native tongue- simultaneously?” asked 1st Lt.  Michael Terry.

Decked in Santa Claus caps and armed with the holiday spirit, more than seventy troops arrived to celebrate Christmas Day in the Jingle Bell 5K run. Hosted by Saint Nick himself, the run was held Christmas afternoon to take advantage of the warmer temperatures. After a prayer and a few well wishes, the run commenced. No person left the Jingle Bell run empty handed. The first place male and female runners were presented calling cards. Santa also granted the wishes of three lucky lottery winners with the gift of free calling minutes. All runners received free commemorative T-shirts.

On Christmas evening the officers of the 529th and Task Force Comanche served almost 2,000 personnel Christmas dinner. The menu was so extensive that a typical plate could not hold all of the food. The menu consisted of steaks, lobster tails, shrimp, turkey, dressing, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, corn, and more.

On New Year’s Day the 529th Headquarters sponsored an 11K relay or 5.5K race. There were approximately 10 teams (two soldiers per team) and 30 individual racers who competed in the race.

Later that day Soldiers of the Support Operations Section sponsored a old fashioned cookout. The food filled their bellies and helped them unwind and relax. The grills were smoking and people were able to maintain some back home traditions like eating black eyed peas on New Year’s for good luck. Some Soldiers said, “This was the best food we’ve had since coming on the deployment.”

Christmas and New Year’s for some became the official count down to returning home. For others it marked the mid-point of the deployment and reminded them of upcoming rest and recuperation trips. The soldiers of 529th CSSB would like to wish everyone back home a Happy Holidays and a joyous and prosperous New Year.

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