Canton man spends Christmas in Kabul
As many in Haywood County gathered for a Christmas Day meal with their families around their grandparent’s or parent’s kitchen tables, Canton native and U.S. Army Capt. Phillip Charles Williams experienced Christmas Day on the other side of the world in Kabul, Afghanistan where he is serving for a year at Camp Eggers within National Training Mission — Afghanistan (NTM-A).
“Being over here for Christmas definitely makes me appreciate what I’ve got back home,” said Williams in a telephone interview at 9 a.m. Kabul time (11:30 p.m. the day before in Haywood County).
Before working the 3 to 11 shift, Williams ate a traditional Christmas meal of turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce in the dining hall — along with festive desserts to top off the meal far away from home.
“They had all kinds of desserts on the dessert table — plenty of apple pies and pumpkin pies and they got real artistic with some of the cakes and things,” he said.
“I sat outside after lunch and listened to the sound of the muezzin calling the Muslims to prayer over the loudspeaker and I was definitely missing home,” he added.
Although Christmas Day was also a work day at Camp Eggers, there was a hint of Christmas spirit around the camp as Christmas movies played all day on the big screen television in the operation center. Classic Christmas movies like “Christmas with the Kranks,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “A Christmas Story” cheered the soldiers up and made them feel somewhat at home on Christmas Day.
On a Facebook post on Dec. 25, Williams, in his signature humorous spirit as he writes to family and friends back home, wrote: "Well, the Great Day is here! About 40F, sunny and windy in Kabul. And here I sit, full of turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and apple pie — finished with coffee in the sunshine, listening to a bunch of British officers chatting of this and that...I hope that all my family and friends enjoy a splendid day, full of joy and wonderful memories. And don't worry about me, like Ebenezer Scrooge, I carry my own atmosphere around with me — although I like to think it is a jollier one than Scrooge had — a lot of folks tell me I'm a funny guy — the secret is that it is easy to be funny when you are funny-looking to start with!! God Bless and keep you all — with all friendship and affection, Phil."
Although he makes the best of his time away from home, Williams says waking up on Christmas Day far from home always tugs at his heart.
“That gut feeling when you wake up is lonesome,” he said, noting that he has also spent Christmas Day away from home two other times in his military career — in Germany in 1983 and in Afghanistan in 2008.
“It is lonesome, but the comradeship and all the boys carrying on and everything helped me to deal with it,” he added.
Williams will be serving in Kabul until next summer when he looks forward to returning to Canton to be home with his wife, Valerie, and their 16-year-old daughter, Mary Elizabeth.
“Until then, I would like to say to everyone back in Haywood County that I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year and I will see you all soon,” Williams said.