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Barksdale couple donates fuel for Afghan women

Gen. Myhammadzai Khatul hugs Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Melahn in Afghanistan after learning about the sergeant's donation of heating fuel for Afghani civilians. (Courtesy photo)

Gen. Myhammadzai Khatul hugs Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Melahn in Afghanistan after learning about the sergeant's donation of heating fuel for Afghani civilians. (Courtesy photo)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNEWS) -- Thanks to a donation by two Airmen from here, Afghan women received 1,500 liters of heating fuel critical to help them through the winter.

The donation was made by Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Melahn and Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Melahn, who is deployed as the Afghan National Army Embedded Training Team S4 mentor from the 2nd Logistics Readiness Squadron here. Chief Melahn is the 2nd Security Forces Squadron command chief.

"A lot of the women are widowed and poor, and a lot of them have young children," Sergeant Melahn said. "It broke my heart because I'm a grandmother with two grandchildren. I told Gen. (Myhammadzai) Khatul that I would try to find the money to help, somehow." 

General Khatul is the only female general in the Afghani military.

At first, Sergeant Melahn tried to go through Commanders Emergency Response Program and the funds obligation officer with no success.

"That's when I decided to call my husband and ask him if we could make a donation of $1,200 to purchase 1,500 liters of fuel," the sergeant said.

According to her Afghani interpreter, Massa Mayanzai, 1,500 liters of fuel would provide 10 liters for 150 homes for a month.

"Sergeant Melahn is the greatest person I have met ever," Mr. Mayanzai said. "I have been working with the United States Army and Air Force for about five years. Sergeant Melahn is spending money from her own pocket to help Afghan people."

General Khatul was near tears after learning about Sergeant Melahn's contribution to Afghani women.

"My interpreters said General Khatul was so grateful and she blessed me," Sergeant Melahn said. "She kept saying 'thank you, thank you,' and 'God bless you.'"

"All the women and (Mr. Mayanzai) were very appreciative -- a lot of people are praying for me now," the sergeant said.

After Sergeant Melahn returned to Afghanistan after her rest and relaxation leave, she said all the women asked her if she and her husband were going to buy fuel again.

"I don't think that's possible, but we're looking at other ways to get more fuel if the weather takes a turn for the worse," Sergeant Melahn said.

At Barksdale Air Force Base, La., leadership is proud that the donation came from a local couple. The deeper and longer-lasting impact of the donation may be that the Afghan people understand the United States cares about their well-being and that there is hope for a better life, said Col. Michael Myers, the 2nd Mission Support Group commander.

Colonel Myers said the Melahns are special people who represent the best of the Air Force and Americans.

"Their selfless act of kindness no doubt won hearts and minds in Afghanistan and furthered U.S. efforts to promote democracy in this part of the world," the group commander said. 

Their generous donation has caught the attention of others. Since her return to Afghanistan, Barksdale's Chapter 615 of the Air Force Sergeants Association has donated $2000 for heating fuel.  A $500 donation also was made by Carole Barton of Langley, Va., and Kevin and Lisa Wright of Texas also contributed to Sergeant Melahn's efforts. The fuel was distributed earlier this month at the Ministry of Defense Compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, as part of Women's National Day.

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