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Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and the U.S. European Command, talks with soldiers during Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalabad, Afghanistan. Clockwise from top are Sgt. Robert Maldonado, Sgt. Jaime Velazquez, Pfc. Luis Velez, and Spc. Yariel Roman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, as well as civilian Feliz Rivera.
Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and the U.S. European Command, talks with soldiers during Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalabad, Afghanistan. Clockwise from top are Sgt. Robert Maldonado, Sgt. Jaime Velazquez, Pfc. Luis Velez, and Spc. Yariel Roman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, as well as civilian Feliz Rivera. (Charlie Coon / S&S)
Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and the U.S. European Command, talks with soldiers during Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalabad, Afghanistan. Clockwise from top are Sgt. Robert Maldonado, Sgt. Jaime Velazquez, Pfc. Luis Velez, and Spc. Yariel Roman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, as well as civilian Feliz Rivera.
Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and the U.S. European Command, talks with soldiers during Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalabad, Afghanistan. Clockwise from top are Sgt. Robert Maldonado, Sgt. Jaime Velazquez, Pfc. Luis Velez, and Spc. Yariel Roman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, as well as civilian Feliz Rivera. (Charlie Coon / S&S)
Pfc. Raymond Cabrera (left), 22, from the Bronx, sits watch in a guard tower with Sgt. Kristopher Hollan, 27, of Sacramento, Calif. Both men, of the 173rd Airborne Brigade's 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, spent Thanksgiving keeping an eye out for Taliban insurgents. Two fellow soldiers were killed last week by a roadside bomb.
Pfc. Raymond Cabrera (left), 22, from the Bronx, sits watch in a guard tower with Sgt. Kristopher Hollan, 27, of Sacramento, Calif. Both men, of the 173rd Airborne Brigade's 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, spent Thanksgiving keeping an eye out for Taliban insurgents. Two fellow soldiers were killed last week by a roadside bomb. (Les Neuhaus / S&S)
Col. Martin Schweitzer (left), commander of the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade, congratulates Spc. Samuel Williams, 24, a native of Long Beach, Calif., after pinning the U.S. Army Commendation Medal (with Valor device) on his lapel on Thanksgiving Day in Afghanistan. The award was given for a firefight Williams and several of his fellow soldiers were in September. Williams is a member of Troop C, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
Col. Martin Schweitzer (left), commander of the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade, congratulates Spc. Samuel Williams, 24, a native of Long Beach, Calif., after pinning the U.S. Army Commendation Medal (with Valor device) on his lapel on Thanksgiving Day in Afghanistan. The award was given for a firefight Williams and several of his fellow soldiers were in September. Williams is a member of Troop C, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. (Les Neuhaus / S&S)
Spc. Gregory Lyle (left), 22, from Detroit and Spc. Eric Barkman, 22, of Sacramento, Calif., both smile as Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Richard Flowers speaks on Thanksgiving in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan, close to the border with Pakistan. The soldiers had just received the U.S. Army Commendation Medal (with Valor device).
Spc. Gregory Lyle (left), 22, from Detroit and Spc. Eric Barkman, 22, of Sacramento, Calif., both smile as Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Richard Flowers speaks on Thanksgiving in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan, close to the border with Pakistan. The soldiers had just received the U.S. Army Commendation Medal (with Valor device). (Les Neuhaus / S&S)
Soldiers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade (left) and 82nd Airborne Division (right) shovel pecan pie into their mouths during an impromptu eating contest in Paktika province on Thanksgiving in Afghanistan. The 82nd won.
Soldiers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade (left) and 82nd Airborne Division (right) shovel pecan pie into their mouths during an impromptu eating contest in Paktika province on Thanksgiving in Afghanistan. The 82nd won. (Les Neuhaus / S&S)

KHOST, Afghanistan — Being away from home for the holidays is not easy, but some commanders from the 82nd Airborne Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade lightened the mood Wednesday and Thursday by visiting troops in the remote outposts of Afghanistan.

Col. Martin Schweitzer and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Richard Flowers from the 82nd, and Lt. Col. Michael Fenzel and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Richard Weik from the 173rd flew from base to base in Ghazni, Paktika, Paktia and Khost provinces in eastern Afghanistan.

Fenzel commands the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, and Schweitzer commands the 82nd’s 4th Brigade along the eastern corridor of Afghanistan — below the capital, Kabul — bordering Pakistan.

Soldiers spoke freely with the commanders while munching turkey, roast beef, ham, shrimp and an array of side dishes and pies.

Some soldiers received medals for courage under fire and some just acknowledged they were thankful to have each other to look out for, something they embrace and take quite seriously.

But the break couldn’t last long.

As the commanders left the last base — Combat Outpost Malekshay, sitting at just over 7,500 feet in elevation and about three miles from the Pakistani border — gunfire rang out through the hills, reminding the troops about the gravity of their mission far away from the United States.

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