Looking Up From Afghanistan

Most of us appreciate a bit of a break in our day. Even a brief moment away can help us stay focused on the usual tasks of work, home life, or whatever occupies our time.

Sometimes, astronomy can supply that step away from the every day. It can provide an opportunity to consider big picture questions about our place in the Universe, think about exotic and fascinating phenomena, or even just relax and enjoy beautiful imagery.

We can only imagine how much more important it is to have that chance for a momentary escape if you have a dangerous and important job such as being a soldier.

Lynda Kowal, wife of Staff Sergeant Scott Kowal, volunteer for two Army Family Readiness Groups, and a U.S. Navy and Army Reserves veteran herself, offered her thoughts on what it’s like to receive a package while overseas:

When a soldier is deployed, whether in peacetime or in conflict, receiving a package can make it feel like a holiday! The soldier really appreciates the fact that someone is thinking of them and supporting them while they are away from home. Sending a care package can be a small way to show appreciation to the Service Members that support their country.

Recently, we sent a box of Chandra materials – including posters, lithographs, bookmarks and calendars – to the U.S. Army 428th Engineer Detachment (Survey and Design) unit, which is part of the 368th Engineer Battalion stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The soldiers who received the materials sent us some very gracious feedback via email. Sergeant Joseph Koktan, the public affairs officer for the 980th Engineer Batallion, wrote:

The soldiers love the pictures and calendars sent to us in Afghanistan. Most of the battalion offices have at least one of the calendars hanging on the wall … I love my calendar and have it hanging right next to my desk. The colorful photos are fascinating and take my mind off things for a little bit when I look at them. Thank you to [Chandra] and all of the folks at NASA who sent them our way!

Staff Sergeant Scott Kowal, who is on his third deployment, also wrote:

You can see that everyone enjoys everything that you sent. Big thanks to you and your work from all of us here for sending it all over.

It is our pleasure to be able to send these things to our troops. If you are a member of the armed services or know of someone who is serving who may like to receive these materials, please contact us at cxcpub@cfa.harvard.edu.

While our supplies are limited, we will do all that we can to help provide a reason to look up and think about the grand cosmos that stretches above us all.

-Megan Watzke & Kim Arcand

Note: You can also download your own 2012 Chandra calendar from

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