BALKH PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Soldiers of the 1103rd Military Police Detachment out of Brandenburg, Ky., paid a visit last month to an orphanage in northern Afghanistan with some much-needed items of comfort.
The unit, led by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Gillock, assisted in a humanitarian mission in preparing children for the harsh winter looming in the near future.
The team arrived in a multi-vehicle convoy loaded with an assortment of winter coats, hats, gloves, candy, and stuffed animals all generously donated by the Jacob Sexton Memorial Afghan Children's Coat Drive.
The drive collects coats to send to children in Afghanistan in honor of Indiana Army National Guard Spc. Jacob Sexton, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran who died in October, 2009.
"There are few more worthy investments than those we make toward children," said Staff Sgt. Bradford Stone, a member of the 1103rd security team. "This was one of the most rewarding missions I've had the privilege to experience."
Rohahza Akbary, principal of the Balkh Orphanage, welcomed the team with warm cups of chai.
Akbary led the team in to a large corridor filled with a variety of smiling children of all ages. The children grew quiet and curious as box after box was brought into the room. As the boxes were opened, their cautious curiosity was quickly replaced with joy and laughter as the gifts were revealed.
"I have to echo what other Soldiers have said, this is truly one of the most rewarding experiences since arriving here in Afghanistan," said Maj. Gregory Jefferson. "The children were very happy to receive new clothing and you could see the appreciation in their faces. It was great."
As the children settled into their new winter gear, their curiosity grew stronger. The children began to mingle with the Soldiers, pointing up at their uniforms and giving them their best "thumbs up with a smile." One little girl managed to utter the words "thank you" in her best English. Akbary informed the troops that dinner time was approaching and that she must prepare the children to eat.
"It was a most fulfilling experience, getting an opportunity to play with the kids and all. I wish we could do this more often," said Spc. Jacqueline Voss.
The children waved their goodbyes, some with bright smiles and others with a mouth full of candy.
The Soldiers of the 1103rd loaded up their trucks and left the orphanage with peace of mind, knowing that for at least one more winter, the children would have something to keep them warm.
"It was an honor to take the lead for such a noble cause," Gillock said. "Often the people of Afghanistan don't interact with the U.S., especially in the north. If this is their sole interaction with us and it's this positive, while they receive needed coats and articles for warmth, then we are all truly winners in this conflict."