Master Sgt. Robert Allen of Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 is on tour in Afghanistan right now and he’s not going to be able to see his family for Christmas. He wrote and performed this long-distance love letter for his wife who is back home in Pawnee, Oklahoma.
When you think of our Marines, you probably don’t picture them sitting around filming love songs to send home, but his fellow Marines at Camp Leatherneck did just that according to Jacqueline Burt at Cafe Mom, and are using it as a “modern-day military carol to serve as a video Christmas card for the thousands of spouses and families who’ll be spending these holidays without loved ones.”
How cool is that?
The Marines at Camp Leatherneck, a Marine base located in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, are among the troops still deployed in Afghanistan. President Obama’s troop drawdown plan is starting with the pulling of surge forces, which are scheduled to be fully home in September of 2012.
In July of this year, Army Times reported:
When the 650 members of the Iowa National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, arrived in Afghanistan in November 2010, bases didn’t have enough housing, translators were in short supply and chow halls were packed. Commanders were using a buildup of 33,000 extra troops for a major push that they said would turn the tide of the war against the Taliban insurgency.
Nine months later, it’s still unclear if that push has succeeded, but the pullback has begun. Although major combat units are not expected to start leaving until late fall, two Guard regiments comprising about 1,000 soldiers are withdrawing this month — the Iowa soldiers from Parwan province in eastern Afghanistan, and the other group from the capital, Kabul.
President Obama announced last month that he would pull 10,000 of the extra troops out in 2011 and the remaining 23,000 by the summer of 2012.
Three hundred soldiers will take over from the 650 departing troops who oversaw security in Parwan, including the area outside the main U.S. military base at Bagram.
Here’s a video of the camp wryly entitled called “Camp Leatheneck Resort and Spa,” which will give you an idea of the conditions our troops live in while deployed.
The Pentagon doesn’t want to continue with the drawdown beyond the surge troops, citing security concerns and an unstable Afghan government. The Pentagon feels the drawdown should be limited after the surge troops come home, citing a need to maintain gains in security they claim to have made in Afghanistan. The UN has countered that the violence in Afghanistan is at an all time high in ten years.
Even with the modest drawdown, some troops say they needed everyone they have and more, citing the task of training the Afghans to take over as arduous:
Outgoing soldiers said they needed all their numbers to do the type of intensive training and mentoring called for by a strategy focused on building up the Afghan forces. They had to spend extra time demonstrating techniques to Afghan police officers who were illiterate and had to teach Afghan soldiers basic map-reading skills, said Staff Sgt. Doug Stanger, 42, of Urbandale, Iowa.
“It takes a lot more of us to mentor them,” Stanger said. The 113th also spend a lot of time working with local communities — building wells, schools or other infrastructure projects.”
Troop drawdown debates are never as simple as some would like to make them seem. It’s not a question of whether we should be there or if we won; it’s a question of are we leaving responsibly or are we leaving the area more destabilized than it was when we invaded. These answers are never as crystal clear as a war-weary nation might hope.
And so, this holiday season, remember the families of those who are serving and have served their country. Missing a loved one can be particularly painful over the holidays, and even those troops who have been part of the drawdown and are finally home can have a tough time with the adjustment.
War is Hell, and not just for those serving but for their families as well.
If you have suggestions for reputable charities or ways to help our troops and their families over the holidays, please leave them in the comments.