KABUL, Afghanistan -- In a sign of how long America has been at war, Navy Chief Tiffany Voels, 35, has to go way back to 2002 for her first of four Christmases downrange. Back then, she was on a ship in support of operations in Afghanistan.
"I knew I'd still be in the service in 2015, but I didn't think I'd be in Afghanistan," she said on Friday after sitting down to Christmas dinner at Operation Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul.
Voels was one of hundreds of troops and contractors from all over the world who dug into turkey, ham and prime rib at the base of the international military coalition that remains in Afghanistan more than 14 years after the U.S. invasion of the country shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The toughest part is being away from her husband and four children back in Fort Worth, Texas, Voels said.
"But I think for the most part, we've created our own little family, so it's alright," she said. "I don't think anything can replace the hugs from your significant other or kids, but there are worse places to be."