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The Gift of Freedom: Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of Air Forces Central, sent out a holiday message yesterday to the more than 25,000 airmen supporting operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East and Near East. “To all deployed airmen, thank you for your dedicated service,” stated North, also thanking the families and friends of these airmen for their “unwavering support and sacrifice.” North said these sacrifices “are appreciated by a grateful nation and are absolutely necessary to ensure the safety and security of millions of people in the US, the Middle East, and throughout the world. Simply put—‘Thank you!’” he said. These airmen, by serving away from home during the holiday season, like US servicemen in past conflicts, enable generations of Americans “to enjoy the holiday season and to enjoy your greatest gift to them—the gift of freedom,” North said.