26 June 2007
I had a wonderful time at home with my family. My trip back to Afghanistan was a long one. It took a few days but I managed to make it back here in one piece. When I got back, I was pleasantly surprised to see my desk covered with boxes from everyone who sent soccer balls while I was gone. One of the first things I was told when I got back was “You got a lot of packages”. Indeed I did.
I spent the next few days enlisting help unpacking the balls and inflating them. It’s a very good thing that we have an air compressor otherwise filling all those balls by a hand pump would take a lot longer than I’d like it to. One of the really neat things about this program is that everyone wants to get involved. I find that I have to carefully plan when to inflate the soccer balls because when its time, everyone wants to help with the balls and no one wants to do any work! Its amazing how everyone wants to be involved. I think we’re doing a good thing and everyone wants to help. I can see that there are more people that benefit from this operation than just the kids.
After the balls were inflated, I began to realize that I had no room in my small office space to keep these balls. I had to find somewhere else to store them. Luckily, there was an empty storage container outside that the balls would fit nicely in. Although the container is pretty big, I have a funny feeling that its not going to big enough. Do you agree?
After a few days of getting re-adjusted to the local time again, my first mission since I came back was to take some folks to a base not too far away. We were to drop them off at a remote location and return in a few hours to pick them up. We were a flight of two Blackhawks so each helicopter had soccer balls to drop. We planned to drop the balls after our mission was complete. Since we had nothing to do for the few hours we were waiting to pick up our passengers, we decided to give some of the soccer balls a test drive. After all, we don’t want to be dropping balls that haven’t been tested, right?
The soccer ball testing was a success. We decided that they were all worthy to be dropped to the kids. With that in mind we finished our mission and anxiously made our way back toward our home base while we scouted the area for kids. We made our way along a dried up wadi and found a small village where the kids were working in the fields. The bad news was that the weather was deteriorating so the drop would have to be shortened. The area we found seemed nice and sunny but the base was only 10 miles away and the winds were picking up as a thunderstorm started to move closer. I knew that if we stayed too long dropping soccer balls that we would get caught in the middle of some very bad weather. We managed to drop a few balls and be on our way. We circled around to join our sister ship when a little boy caught our eye. Standing at about four feet tall he was out working in the fields. His shirt and pants were dark but the muddy field that he was working in had made tell-tale signs all over it that he spent more time working than he did playing. Immediately, the entire crew knew that we had to make one last drop to this little fellow. Our crew chief picked out a nice blue and white soccer ball to throw down to him. Sometimes, when we drop a ball to larger groups, it’s always the bigger, faster kids that seem to get them. Some of the younger kids don’t seem to have much of a chance to grab a ball although every once in a while they do. Today, one of the younger ones was going to get a ball. We saw that he was all alone working in the field. I maneuvered the helicopter around, slowed down just a little and we dropped the ball for him to have. He ran as fast as his little bare feet could go leaving a cloud of dust behind him as he raced for the ball. He scooped it up instantly and cradled it in his arms as if his life depended on it. He gave us a giant wave as if we were all speaking the same language and we were. I guess in any language a Thank you is a Thank you.
Do you see it? He’s saying it to you now…THANK YOU.
21 June 2007
Greetings OSC fans! Thanks for your patience during the last few weeks when Princeton was home on leave. That time flew by far too quickly though, and now he’s back in Afghanistan and ready to get going with Operation Soccer Chopper again.
One of the guys in his unit said that when they’ve been flying the past few weeks, they’ve seen several kids who’ve waved and made ball-kicking motions, so the word is definitely getting out. They don’t even know Princeton was on R&R and there are dozens of kids who are glad he’s back!
Remember that the balls in those boxes are mostly deflated, so there are a LOT of balls in that pile! The first thing that has to be done is to inflate all of them. The whole unit is getting a lot of satisfaction out of OSC so there is never a shortage of volunteers to help with that.
It will be a few days before we have any more “action” shots of actual drops, but until then, here’s one “kid” who’s having fun with one of the donated soccer balls!
2 June 2007
Hello OSC fans! I’m now on leave for a short time away from Afghanistan so I have no posts to tell you how things are going with the Soccer Drops. However, on one of the drops before I left we were able to vidoetape things that were going on. I hope you enjoy the footage I posted here. Remember that these are homemade videos so it may get a little shaky, but its neat to see the kids running around and chasing the balls.
You may need to lower the sound level once the video starts playing. Press play to see one of the OSC ball drops!!!!
In the video below we’re on our way to find a spot to drop the balls. You can see some of the 100 balls that the Allen family sent us.
In this video clip the blue ball we dropped was from my sister in law, Liesl. You can see all the kids that gathered around once we started dropping…so many kids, so few balls!
It appears that one of the requirements to getting an OSC ball is to be able to run faster than the other kids. Its amazing how high a soccer ball can bounce.
Its a good feeling to see the kids run after these balls. I do admit that seeing the reaction of the kids with the balls makes me want to keep dropping them.
When the ball was dropped on this clip, it seems that one kid caught it but gave it to another. I’m not sure why one kid had two balls, but there was nothing I could do but go somewhere else.
After all the balls have been dropped for the day, we flew over and gave them a farewell wave. I seldom go back to the same spots to drop balls so I’m not sure when I’ll be back in that area. A good day indeed!