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Khalia Jadan, 3, and her brother, Kerik, 5, pose with Santa Claus on Sunday during the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team rear detachment’s holiday party at Caserma Ederle. Kids got a chance to work on a variety of crafts they can send to their parents, many of whom are deployed to Afghanistan.
Khalia Jadan, 3, and her brother, Kerik, 5, pose with Santa Claus on Sunday during the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team rear detachment’s holiday party at Caserma Ederle. Kids got a chance to work on a variety of crafts they can send to their parents, many of whom are deployed to Afghanistan. (Kent Harris / S&S)
Khalia Jadan, 3, and her brother, Kerik, 5, pose with Santa Claus on Sunday during the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team rear detachment’s holiday party at Caserma Ederle. Kids got a chance to work on a variety of crafts they can send to their parents, many of whom are deployed to Afghanistan.
Khalia Jadan, 3, and her brother, Kerik, 5, pose with Santa Claus on Sunday during the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team rear detachment’s holiday party at Caserma Ederle. Kids got a chance to work on a variety of crafts they can send to their parents, many of whom are deployed to Afghanistan. (Kent Harris / S&S)
Andrea Davis, 5, works diligently Sunday to fill in the gaps of a snowman during the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team rear detachment’s holiday party in Vicenza, Italy. Almost 300 people -- many of them spouses and kids of soldiers deployed to Afghanistan -- attended the event.
Andrea Davis, 5, works diligently Sunday to fill in the gaps of a snowman during the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team rear detachment’s holiday party in Vicenza, Italy. Almost 300 people -- many of them spouses and kids of soldiers deployed to Afghanistan -- attended the event. (Kent Harris / S&S)
Janet Lundquist helps son Devin, 2, put together a frame for a picture for dad. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Troy Lundquist will return from Afghanistan shortly.
Janet Lundquist helps son Devin, 2, put together a frame for a picture for dad. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Troy Lundquist will return from Afghanistan shortly. (Kent Harris / S&S)

VICENZA, Italy — Hundreds of children whose parents are assigned to Caserma Ederle, or Schweinfurt or Bamberg in Germany will be celebrating Christmas while a parent is deployed downrange this year.

So the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team’s rear detachment in Vicenza decided to kick off the holidays a bit earlier this year to give kids a chance to share some seasonal spirit with their moms or dads in Afghanistan.

Hundreds gathered at Club Veneto on Sunday afternoon to work on a variety of craft projects that might soon be making their way downrange. Amanda Grigsby, a family readiness special assistant for the brigade, said the party was designed “to get the families together for the holidays and encourage the children to make something for their parents who are deployed.”

For the last seven months, family members routinely have been participating in a variety of organizations designed to make life more bearable. But most of those activities are based at the company level or in even smaller settings.

All-too-frequent exceptions are community members attending a series of memorial services honoring the 21 soldiers from Vicenza who have died during the rotation.

The rear detachment commander, Lt. Col. Todd Johnston, said the morale in the community is generally good, “though it’s often somber with us, because of the duties involved” in handling arrangements for the fallen soldiers and about 150 wounded personnel from the brigade.

Sunday wasn’t such a time, though. Smiles were plentiful as kids worked on gingerbread creations and reindeer puppets, or tried to knock down piñatas.

“You can’t eat this,” Amanda Davis, 5, said of the snowman she was creating on a piece of paper. That’s because the base was made of shaving cream, though it also featured raisins, sprinkles of candy and popcorn kernels.

“It looks yummy,” she said.

There was plenty to eat for Amanda and the rest of those attending the party, though. She also was luckier than some others. Her father, Spc. Andrew Davis, is home on leave.

Not everyone was completely happy.

Joshua Dillon, 16 months, found Santa big, red and scary. But, with the help of his mother, Maggy, he endured his unhappiness long enough for a picture that will soon be sent downrange to his father, Sgt. Frank Dillon.

Other families lined up to put short messages on DVDs that will be sent downrange. A busy week at the base’s post office should allow soldiers stationed downrange to receive the gifts and messages in time for the holidays.

Photos by Kent Harris / S&S

Khalia Jadan, 3, and her brother, Kerik, 5, pose with Santa Claus on Sunday during the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team rear detachment’s holiday party at Caserma Ederle. Kids got a chance to work on a variety of crafts they can send to their parents, many of whom are deployed to Afghanistan.

Janet Lundquist helps son Devin, 2, put together a frame for a picture for dad. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Troy Lundquist will return from Afghanistan shortly.

Migrated
Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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