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The Kandahar Koughers
Stephen B. Roach
Posted: July 4, 2011
Every Friday, a cloud of smoke laced with fine dust rolls across Kandahar, Afghanistan. It isn't from mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles rolling to the gates or from indirect fire, it's from a group known as the Kandahar Koughers.
The cigar club, boasting more than 120 members, meets every week. They smoke cigars, offering a place to unwind and talk about any subject from work to home life. They also hand out cigars to service members who have been out on the frontlines fighting for an Afghanistan they hope to leave in better shape than when they arrived.
On Christmas Eve 2010 Kandahar Airfield (KAF), 12 cigar smokers lit their first cigars as the Kandahar Koughers. Their goal was to get together, enjoy a cigar and include the young fighting men and women they met in the finance office where they were working. Today, they provide a place for cigar lovers to enjoy their hobby together, with no fees and a few free cigars.
"[It's about] spreading the wealth of the camaraderie. When you're smoking a cigar, it's just not smoking a cigar. You're getting the whole package; you're getting a brother- and sisterhood. If you're sitting off by yourself come over here and let's talk," said Alex Medlin, the outgoing club president. "That's the intrinsic value that we get by doing this, you know," he added. "Just helping a soldier."
The club is geared toward enlisted service members and junior officers.
"Really, I guess we're fond of the young guys [who are] going out there putting their lives on the line every day," said Carlos Ramirez, Kougher vice president. "We live in this bubble [KAF], and we know the young guys are going out there. I guess this is a way that we can thank them for what they are doing for us. [The club] was meant for them. It's important they know we're thinking about them."
Good cigars aren't cheap, and it takes money to buy and distribute hundreds of them monthly. So far, the club has spent more than $2,000 on cigars. The club sells T-shirts and challenge coins to raise money for cigars, cutters and lighters. The military has a long-standing tradition of challenge coins. They're given by organizations or commanders as small tokens of thanks for a job well done.
Each coin is numbered and every shirt and coin has a distinctive logo on it, designed by an unknown soldier. According to Medlin, the logo, a skull with an American flag bandanna, originally had two daggers in the background. It was left by an Army ranger at a former fighting position. The Koughers replaced the two daggers behind the skull with cigars.
The Koughers send a number of the cigars they purchase to outlying Forward Operating Bases across Southern Afghanistan. It's like a Pony Express for cigars; the Koughers find a soldier, sailor, airman or marine from a distant forward operating base and load them up with cigars for them and their units. When they arrive, all the Koughers ask is that the servicemembers hand out the cigars.
The Koughers also work with the Wounded Warrior Program on KAF to find computers and Internet access for soldiers who are recovering on KAF before moving back out to the fight.
Comments 4 comment(s)
Robert Davidson — July 4, 2011 7:54am ET
Stephen Roach — El Paso, TX, 79928, USA, — July 5, 2011 8:57am ET
Mike Barker — King George, VA, USA, — July 5, 2011 12:53pm ET
Jessica Danon — Port St. Lucie, FL, USA, — July 7, 2011 11:16am ET
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