“Let love be genuine; hold fast to what is good. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering and faithful in prayer. Share with those who are in need and practice hospitality.”
Without the constant bombardment of Hallmark advertisements and specials on roses, Valentine’s Day could have easily come and gone without any of us even noticing. Fortunately for members of Task Force Viper and other US service members working in our camp, friends from home ensured that this was not the case. Between the hundreds of Hershey Kisses, Valentines from young students, a plethora of cards, some bought and some made for us to be able to send home and to one another, and enough conversational hearts to share far and wide, not one of us felt left out.
Valentine’s Day has never been a particularly appealing holiday to me, except for its color scheme, but to my surprise, our Bagram Valentines grew into much more than candy and hearts. Thanks to the generosity of friends from Maryland to North Carolina and even all the way to Texas, many of us were able to take part in a truer Valentines experience, engaging in service both for one another and for those in Afghanistan who are struggling to survive this very cold winter.
In preparation for our upcoming Operation Pencil mission where we will be sharing blankets, warm clothes, jackets, shoes, knitted bears, and toys, a group of soldiers and airmen got together to make fleece scarves with materials donated to us by the Presbyterian Church of Chestertown. Part of the project required threading beads onto the fringes of the scarves which was much harder than many of us originally thought possible. Watching pairs of soldiers work together to make their respective scarves, often skewing their straight lines and struggling with the tiny beads, was heartwarming. After long days of work, their willingness to give free time was a testament to their commitment to serving the people of Afghanistan.
A team also gathered to help make Valentine’s Day special for each member of Task Force Viper. Over the course of an evening, we wrote Valentines for over two hundred members of the unit, making sure that everyone received a personalized note along with candy and cards from home. While some of the Valentine’s messages would not have been “Hallmark approved,” the smiles and laughs we witnessed as we passed them out made me realize that even the smallest gesture of kindness can make a real difference.
As this deployment continues to unfold, the Task Force Viper family faces both joys and challenges. While our lives are very busy because of the demands of our mission here, we often worry about family and friends at home who are sick or struggling. It is hard not to be able to be there with them. Yet, as this is the work which we have been called to do, we face these months as a team. We hold one another up during the difficult moments, and we learn that we are strong because we love and care for each other. For now, we are what we have to hold on to in this time and place.
Our Bagram Valentines helped us remember that in the midst of whatever difficulty we may face, when we hold on to what is good, when we remember hope and practice patience, when we share what we have, even if all that we really have to give is our time, we sew seeds of love, real love, the kind of love that renews and sustains us-- a love that never fails.