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Canadian troops enjoy Christmas cheer with military comrades

Canadian soldiers sang carols, donned Santa hats and strung up Christmas lights among the rows of tents to celebrate the holidays with their comrades at the Kandahar base in Afghanistan.

Canadian soldiers sang carols, donned Santa hats andstrung upChristmas lights among the rows of tentstocelebrate the holidays with their comrades at the Kandahar base in Afghanistan.

Cpl. Yanick Garneau dons a Santa hat as he guards the entrance to the international base at Kandahar. ((CBC))

"Without snow, we don't feel the magic of Christmas," said Cpl. Yanick Garneau, wearing a Santa hat."But anyway, we try to look like we're in the magic of the Christmas time."

Garneau was one of the Quebec reservistsassigned toguard the entrance to the international base,which must have someone on duty at all times.

Although they did their best to get into the Christmas spirit, many expressed mixed emotions having to face the holidays away from friends and family.

"You think of your family and you do your job, right? There's a job to be done 24 hours a day and it's got to be done by someone," said Capt. Yvon Voyer.

Capt. Patrick Hannan saidit just isn't the same without his wife and 10-year-old daughter.

"I must say it started getting harder [the day before Christmas Eve]," the Sorel, Que., resident told the Canadian Press. "Once your family starts moving around and celebrating, and you're all alone here, before that the morale was pretty good, but now that it's Christmas Eve and the family is celebrating, it's hard."

Hannanstressed that despite the holiday,it's still a war zone.

"You always have to be on guard, so even if we take a little bit of time off, we know operations outside Kandahar [Airfield] are still going on," he said.

"It doesn't mean the insurgents will stop fighting just because it's Christmas."

'It's making me miss home'

About 300 soldiers from a host of countries gatheredat the base to sing carols for a Christmas service.

"I came out here to celebrate Christmas with my brothers in arms," said Maj. Craig Smith

"At home in Ottawa I would be sitting by the fireplace doing this with my children," he said.

"It's making me miss home."

The base also hosted a Christmas party for Canadian troops. A part-time disc jockey and full-time soldier who went by the name DJ Fred spun the music as troops, restricted to one beer, danced and partied inside the tent.
Troops, restricted to one beer, dance during the Christmas party at the Kandahar base. ((CBC))

A Calgary sporting-goods chain donated $70,000 worth of ball-hockey equipment to soldiers from Eastern Canada.

"You know, we are a big country and to know the guys in the West, Western Canada, think of us, it's very fine— it's a goodthing for us," said Master Cpl. Andre Demomme.

With files from the Canadian Press