'An overwhelming amount of support'

The soldiers of U.S. Army's Bravo Troop 3-61 Cavalry didn't spend Christmas with their families. Afghanistan was their holiday host. But Christmas spirit still managed to travel thousands of miles, thanks to The American Legion's partnership with Target Corp. and Computer Science Corp.

The union created the COP Keating fundraising effort, which launched after word spread that members of Bravo Troop 3-61 Cavalry from Fort Carson, Colo., lost all their personal possessions after they were forced to call an air strike on their own position in an Oct. 3 attack by insurgents. The 56 survivors were left with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and their weapons, but the COP Keating fundraising effort brought in more than $100,000 to provide comfort items for them. Two batches of items have arrived in Afghanistan.

"Christmas was a great time for the soldiers of Black Knight Troop," wrote Bravo Sgt. First Class Hill in an e-mail. "After a day of relaxing and playing football, myself and the Troop Commander placed all the items in a gathering area and then I took the center of the troop giving them a Christmas speech, I told them how fortunate we were to have the folks back home that (cared) that this was an overwhelming amount of support and that we have a great family and team not just here in country but back in the great USA. I was needless to say nearly in tears while I was talking and looking at the amount of ‘gifts' there were in the stack. It was knowing that the time, effort, and care that was taken to put all this together. I also asked the troop for a moment of silence for the men lost on Oct. 3rd, the silence was hauntingly quiet and you could tell that the fallen soldiers were in the minds of us all name by name."

The e-mail was a stark contrast to one sent to the Legion by a Bravo Troop soldier after the attack. The note expressed concern that no one at home knew what they were doing in Afghanistan, and that no one really cared.For more insight and pictures from Afghanistan, go to the Burn Pit.