LETTERS FROM AFGHANISTAN - Easter a far cry from years past, but fulfilling

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My Easter Sunday last weekend was spent like any other Sunday. Once the evening rolled around, however, I figured I would take some time to talk with and hang out with the Afghan National Army Brigade S2 shop.

My parents had sent me some canned oysters and some crackers. I decided that I would introduce the Afghans to oysters.

After cracking open the can and explaining to the Afghans what exactly an oyster was, they were very reluctant to give it a try.

One of the guys tried to convince me that oysters were not good for Muslims, while another told me they were bound to make him sick if he even touched one.

I sat there with my toothpick and crackers eating away and finally I turned to one of the guys and said, "Sadiq, just try one" as I handed him an oyster on a cracker. He gulped it down real quick, nodded his head and told me that he didn't care to have another one.

I continued the evening with a conversation with one of the new S2 shop officers, Maj. Ahmad Noor.

He asked me about Easter and the Christian story behind Jesus. I proceeded to tell him the story of Jesus and how he was crucified and then rose again. Acknowledging this, he told me the Muslim version of the story of Jesus.

Not once did he try to convert my beliefs, nor did I try to convert his; there was a feeling of mutual respect for our religious backgrounds and beliefs. It was a great way to spend an Easter Sunday, although it certainly did not beat the Easter's of my yesteryears with family.

In the northern sector of our area of operations, the Hindu Kush restrict mobility and thus the number of operations we conduct in the region.

It is, however, a stronghold of the enemy we fight here.

The Afghan National Security Forces put together an operation in the region with little support of coalition forces assets.

Col. Afzal, the 2nd ANA brigade commander, needed to go up to the area to provide some command and control for his troops on the ground. I, along with an assembly of six other Afghans, jumped in a Blackhawk to head north to assist in the operation. Several other Americans were in the other Blackhawk that made the trip with us.

The initial plan was to establish a command post at the Afghan Border Police headquarters in a little town north of our northern most base in Konar Province. In the dark of the night, the Blackhawks made their way up the Konar River valley.

Once we reached our destination, we were a little uncertain with how the following day's events needed to unfold. As things wound up, we did not push further north to establish our command post in the little village to the north.

We stayed at the base while Afzal and his men pushed farther north to a key bridge in the operation. I ended up monitoring the events of the day with the Afghan radio operator.

Not much excitement happened as we initially anticipated, so I, along with a few of the Americans who flew up to the base in the other Blackhawk, jumped on a flight the following night and made our way back to Jalalabad.

The ANA continued the operations throughout the week. We scheduled another flight for Afzal so that he could participate in some of the meetings that were evolving as a result of the operation.

I found myself having to head over to the nearby airfield here in Jalalabad for a change-of-command ceremony. As I am still the executive officer for the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division's Military Intelligence Company, I assisted in the change of command ceremony for my company commander by providing the narration.

Even though I have spent little time with the company, it was rather sad to see him go. I am sure the future of the company, however, is in good hands with the new commander.

Following the ceremony, I made my way back to my home at the ANA garrison. The stormy weather we were expecting finally hit right as I arrived. The winds kicked up the dirt and the rain made the air humid and muddy. There is nothing quite like an Afghanistan storm.

We continue to chip away at time here as we anticipate redeployment throughout each passing week. Each day brings coming home that much more closer.

I have found, however, that along with excitement for going home I grow rather discouraged at the prospect of leaving this country before the job is finished.

I know that when I leave, I will have many questions as to if some of the things we did was right or if we could have done things better.

I know that in many ways, this place and these people have affected me. Surely, when the time comes to leave I will be ready, but I also believe I will have a sense of reluctance to leave the job to somebody else.

First Lt. Andrew Plucker is deployed to Afghanistan. He is not an Army spokesman, and his updates from the field are written from his personal perspective as a soldier.

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