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As troop numbers fall in Afghanistan, another Christmas at war

Soldiers toast with nonalcoholic beer on Christmas Day 2014 in a dining hall at the headquarters of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force. It's the 14th Christmas U.S. troops have spent in Afghanistan and there will be at least two more, with a limited number of troops staying in the country through 2016.

HEATH DRUZIN/STARS AND STRIPES

By HEATH DRUZIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 25, 2014

KABUL, Afghanistan — Spc. Ryan Asta was just 11 years old when American troops spent their first Christmas in Afghanistan.

Thirteen years later, it was Asta’s turn to ring in the holiday at the Kabul headquarters of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force.

“Seems like a normal day — better food, though,” the 24-year-old military policeman said while enjoying the Christmas meal in a dining hall decked out with green and red tinsel, Christmas trees and a couple of Frosty The Snowmans.

On Thursday, Christmas tunes complemented ham, prime rib, mashed potatoes with gravy and the ever-present near beer, a staple of U.S. dining halls throughout the long, alcohol-free war. Even Santa made an appearance, albeit sporting a sidearm.

For Army Sgt. Alex Newman, the highlight of the day was to come later that night when he planned to get on Skype with his family, including his three children. The Oregon National Guard soldier, spending his first Christmas at war, said that joking with his fellow soldiers took the sting away from missing home.

“It’s not the most fun, but we’ve got a good platoon, so it’s all right,” he said.

druzin.heath@stripes.com
Twitter: @Druzin_Stripes

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