The Joys of Summer

3 July 2007

It’s finally July. The heat has been beating down on us for weeks and we all know it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Now and again a thunderstorm passes through and although the rain seems to cool the hot ground, the muggy air then takes over and makes things even worse. Thankfully, the thought of being able to make another drop of soccer balls lifts our spirits. All of a sudden, the heat isn’t so bad after all.

I’m on the night shift for the next few days so this afternoon I met with the other maintenance pilot to coordinate what needed to be finished up. I was glad to know that one of the birds would need a maintenance test flight. I knew that once the checks were complete, we’d have time to drop some balls.

Every time we prepare for one of our drops we can’t help but think of all the excited Afghan kids who will be trading us giant smiles for the soccer balls that fall from above.  Today we loaded the aircraft with balls donated by the family of my crew chief Jeremy.  

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We conducted our test flight along a very long wadi that runs near our base. While our crew concentrated on the maintenance checks, we were also scanning the landscape to see what would be the best place to make the drop once work was over. Once the checks were complete, we all agreed that one particular spot would be the best place. Just to the side of the wadi was a small group of boys. It was obvious that they were working in the fields and could use a short break. We hovered over and dropped the first ball. A race was on to see who would get to the ball first.  It was a nice race that ended with the winner scooping up the ball and showing it off to his friends. Just beyond this first group of boys there was another group that was waving to us. We moved the helicopter over and dropped another ball. The helicopter was still moving when the ball started its fall, it took a great bounce and started to roll across a grassy field. Another foot race ensued. This time, the boys seemed a bit more determined to claim a soccer ball and a large group of them went running after it. Just as the lead runner got close enough to bend down and scoop up the ball, a whole mass of other boys fell on the first one and everyone came crashing down on him! What a sight! They were so eager to get a ball that they were tackling each other to get to it! We could see from the look on their faces that they were so happy to get such a great gift from all of you.

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The saying goes…it takes more muscles in your face to frown than it does to smile.  Every ball you send changes that saying for me to “it only takes one soccer ball to make a lot of kids smile.”  I hope it makes you smile too.  

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