Christmas Eve In Afghanistan, Again

American troops have spent a decade's worth of holidays in Afghanistan, and these four Americans, a colonel and three sergeants, have been repeatedly deployed overseas.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Let's get in touch on this Christmas Eve with some Americans overseas. One is a colonel, three are sergeants, and all of are in Afghanistan. American troops have spent a decade's worth of holidays in Afghanistan now. And these four Americans have been repeatedly deployed overseas in recent years.

Each of them stepped up to the microphone of NPR's Quil Lawrence, who met them at a U.S. military hospital at Bagram Air Base, outside of Kabul.

(Soundbite of music)

Sergeant ZACHARY SCOSKIE: Sergeant Zachary Scoskie, and I'm from Louisville, Kentucky.

Sergeant WALLACE TRAHAN: I'm Sergeant Wallace Trahan III from Baton Rouge -well, Prairieville, Louisiana.

Colonel DIANE HUEY (U.S. Air Force): My name's Diane Huey, and I'm a colonel in the U.S. Air Force from Langley Air Force Base. I'm originally out of Ohio.

Sergeant AARON KELLY: My name's Sergeant Aaron Kelly. I'm from Camp Pendleton, California. I've been to - I've been deployed four times, been to Iraq.

Sgt. TRAHAN: I'm from Desert Storm.

Sgt. SCOSKIE: This is my third deployment.

Sgt. KELLY: Eighty, right after the earthquake in January.

Col. HUEY: I was active duty for 11 years...

Sgt. SCOSKIE: ...previous deployments in Iraq.

Col. HUEY: ...and in the Reserves for 18, and then I just came back in.

Sgt. KELLY: Just recently deployed to Afghanistan.

Sgt. SCOSKIE: My first to Afghanistan.

Sgt. TRAHAN: First tour to Afghanistan.

Col. HUEY: These guys are unbelievable. My job is to coordinate air evac. I have to make sure that they're medically stable for flight. And the chance to work with these guys, who have given their arms, their legs, and many of them their lives for us, is just very difficult to express. Sorry.

Sgt. TRAHAN: I got my first Purple Heart two weeks ago.

Sgt. SCOSKIE: I just got here last night, actually.

Sgt. KELLY: I stepped on a 20-pound IED pressure plate yesterday. We just went out on a patrol.

Sgt. TRAHAN: We have a traffic control point. There's a blind corner that we had actually checked often because we knew it was a spot somebody could ambush us from.

Sgt. KELLY: We launched some explosives and detonated one IED.

Sgt. TRAHAN: In the middle of a rush of people coming in...

Sgt. KELLY: We started walking down a path.

Sgt. TRAHAN: A guy stepped out from that corner and shot the grenade about 35 yards, and it just hit perfect. It hit right in front of my vehicle and rolled right passed me.

Sgt. SCOSKIE: Just got hit by an IED, ended having to get medevaced.

Sgt. TRAHAN: Blew me against the vehicle, and I caught some shrapnel in my lower legs.

Sgt. KELLY: That's when I stepped on the pressure plate. And, like I said, it just partially detonated, so I didn't get the full blast.

Sgt. TRAHAN: We were kind of short on people, because we got people getting hurt and stuff like that. So I decided just to forego treatment and stay out there. It became a tactic of theirs to, right at dusk, to start throwing grenades.

A couple of days ago, like 13 days after the first one - and we were actually sitting in a spot waiting for somebody to throw something. It came over a roof, bounced down and just landed, like, right at my feet. And I turned around to see it, and it exploded.

My medic was on the vehicle waiting on me. By the time we got halfway there, I realized I wasn't going to bleed out.

Sgt. KELLY: As soon as it went, I went and I ran over to our corpsman so he could immediately start his triage and start working on me.

Sgt. SCOSKIE: Grade-three concussion.

Sgt. KELLY: I knew that I was going to be fine.

Sgt. SCOSKIE: They thought I just bruised my shoulder.

Sgt. KELLY: It was broken. That was it.

Sgt. SCOSKIE: ...tore some soft tissue in my shoulder.

Sgt. KELLY: They're sending me back to the States. By the time I'm done with healing and rehab, I'll be - my unit will be coming back.

Sgt. SCOSKIE: Luckily, the truck did its job. Besides minor bumps and bruises and cuts, luckily, that was about it.

(Soundbite of song, "The First Noel")

Col. HUEY: Have a great holiday. We love all of you.

Sgt. KELLY: I'm safe, and I'm on my way back home. I'll be there soon.

Sgt. SCOSKIE: Just Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. And just make sure that people, you know, just kind of realize that there's still a lot of us over here.

Sgt. TRAHAN: I hope y'all have a Merry Christmas, and I miss y'all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Sgt. TRAHAN: To Candace May, honey bunny.

(Soundbite of song, "The First Noel")

INSKEEP: Sergeant Wallace Trahan, Sergeant Aaron Kelly, Sergeant Zachary Scoskie and Colonel Diane Huey. All spoke with NPR's Quil Lawrence at Bagram Air Base, outside of Kabul, Afghanistan.

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