Once Banned by the Taliban, Kites Mark First Thanksgiving for Afghan Refugees on US Military Base

A Marine helps an Afghan refugee put together a kite for Thanksgiving at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew Dusap, with 8th Engineering Support Battalion, helps an Afghan guest put together a kite during a Thanksgiving festival in Upshur Village on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Nov. 25, 2021. (Lance Cpl. Jessica J. Mazzamuto/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The Marines added a new tradition to the old for the first Thanksgiving in the U.S. for the Afghan refugees who escaped Taliban rule and now are temporarily living on seven bases nationwide.

At Marine Corps Base Quantico in northern Virginia, the Marines mixed a Thanksgiving meal with some arts and crafts for the kids, plus kite flying -- a national sport in Afghanistan once banned by the Taliban as decadent, according to 2nd Lt. Jasmine Scott, a spokesperson.

At least two other bases acted on their own with the support of local organizations to provide Thanksgiving festivities for their Afghan "guests," but there was no central planning for the meals.

After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August and the chaotic evacuation of more than 124,000 U.S. citizens and Afghans, eight military bases were designated as temporary shelters for the Afghans while they were vetted, vaccinated and cleared for resettlement in local communities under the overall supervision of the Department of Homeland Security.

Read Next: What Happened to the Afghanistan Evacuation?

The first base taking in Afghans was Fort Lee in Virginia, followed by Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; Fort Bliss, Texas; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey; Fort Pickett and Quantico in Virginia; Holloman AFB in New Mexico and Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

Initially, the eight bases housed more than 60,000 Afghans as the State Department, working with more than 200 relief groups, sought to resettle them and provide support in local communities.

On Nov. 17, DHS announced that the last group of Afghan nationals at Fort Lee had been resettled in Operation Allies Welcome, and about 45,000 remained at the other seven bases.

A spokesperson for the Defense Logistics Agency said that DLA Troop Support, which sent more than 192 tons of holiday food to military dining facilities, ship galleys and field kitchens in the U.S. and worldwide, did not receive any special orders for halal meals permitted by Islam for Thanksgiving.

The Army's Fort McCoy did not have any special meals or Thanksgiving activities for the Afghans housed on the base, a McCoy spokesperson said, but Holloman Air Force Base, temporary home to about 3,100 Afghan guests, went ahead with holiday festivities Thursday and Friday.

The activities at Holloman included "teaching kids about Thanksgiving and what we celebrate in the U.S. -- time with family and thankfulness," Capt. Allison Kirk, a Holloman spokesperson, said in an emailed statement to Military.com.

At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, the base -- with support from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- mixed Thanksgiving-themed crafts and movies into regularly scheduled programming for children and adults.

Dining facilities at Joint Base MDL also served "Halal Thanksgiving dishes alongside regular meals as an option for guests who want to experience Thanksgiving food," Air Force Capt. Sarah Johnson said in an emailed statement.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com

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