Nightly News | December 24, 2013
>>> finally tonight, spreading holiday cheer to america's men and women in uniform, who can't make it home for christmas with their families. there are 47,000 soldiers and marines in afghanistan tonight. and as the u.s. winds down operations there, this may be the last year for this particular christmas tradition . our making a difference report tonight, from our pentagon correspondent, jim miklaszewski inside afghanistan .
>> reporter: amid the mountains in eastern afghanistan , santa claus is already going to town. it is the uso's annual christmas convoy , spreading gifts and good cheer to u.s. troops on the battlefield. it is led by santa herself, regina wages, the uso director here.
>> i love these guys, they need a little piece of home and i love to provide it for them.
>> reporter: volunteers pitch in on behalf of their fellow soldiers.
>> it is just creating a smile, and putting it on somebody's faces.
>> reporter: they're the only santas carrying side arms , the latest x box , even a bicycle is a symbol.
>> you don't have any parts left over, do you?
>> i don't think we do.
>> i always did.
>> reporter: the gifts are tossed onto helicopters for delivery, this time to this base. the soldiers here are preparing for a mission outside the wire. only days before christmas. the uso invasion provides a welcome break from the war. even seasoned combat veterans get a lift.
>> i like being the carrier once in a while .
>> reporter: the uso convoy delivers the holiday packages to some of the most isolated and dangerous bases in afghanistan , where the only outside contact may be the enemy. but as the war winds down, these christmas convoys will come to an end. that is bitter sweet for regina wages.
>> you know, i've been out here serving these guys since 2009 . i mean, i'm glad they're going home , but for me it is kind of sad.
>> reporter: and while war has a way of quickly turning young soldiers into men, these brief young moments allow them to be kids again.
>> man, you guys will do anything.
>> reporter: receiving what may be the most precious gift of all.