Merry Christmas from Afghanistan: Troops' festive messages to families back home in Hull and East Yorkshire
SOLDIERS from East Yorkshire gather around a Christmas tree in Afghanistan to wish their families 4,500 miles away a happy Christmas.
The Mail is spending the festive period with the Royal Dragoon Guards, who are half way through their six-month tour of duty training Afghan forces on the front line in Helmand Province.
Families across Hull and the East Riding will be putting their feet up tomorrow but these soldiers will spend the day training members of the Afghan National Police.
Last night, in Lashkar Gah, soldiers donned Santa hats and gathered around a Christmas tree to deliver their Christmas messages home to their families and friends.
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Lance Corporal Brian Rodgers, 24, of Beverley, not only missed his son Jacob's birth eight weeks ago, he will also miss his first Christmas.
He said: "It's hard being away but it's part of being a soldier. I wish my wife, Samantha, and our son a very happy Christmas."
Married dad-of-two Corporal Ben Wright, 25, of Bridlington, said: "I would like to wish all my family and friends a very merry Christmas and a happy new year, especially my wife Gemma, our four-year son, Harley and eight-year-old daughter, Tyler.
"I miss you all loads.
"I miss home but if I couldn't be in East Yorkshire, there's no place I'd rather be than here with the rest of the lads."
Corporal David Brooke, 26, of east Hull, said: "To all my family and friends, merry Christmas and a happy new year.
"Everybody is in the same boat here and is spending Christmas away from their families. We look out for each other."
Sergeant Martin Slattery, 26, of Kingswood, Hull, is a self-confessed Scrooge and donned a black Santa hat bearing the words "Bah Humbug".
His friends persuaded him to place his presents besides a miniature Christmas tree in their shared tent.
Sergeant Slattery said: "It's not too bad, spending Christmas out here. We just get on with it. Everyone is keeping each other's spirits up."
Corporal Robert Littlefair, 29, of east Hull, is looking forward to a well-earned pint on his return.
He said: "Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all my family and friends. I'm looking forward to seeing you when I get home. Mine's a pint of Carling!"
The Royal Dragoon Guards, which recruit heavily from East Yorkshire, are deployed across Helmand Province.
Britain's main focus in Afghanistan is training Afghan forces to take over responsibility for providing security in their own country.
It is a job not without risk – this year, 14 British soldiers have been killed by rogue Afghan policemen.
As well as training the Afghans, soldiers from the Warthog Group – named after the armoured troop carrier – are used in operations to flush out the Taliban from the Green Zone, an area of contested fertile land that flanks the Helmand River.