Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Be Thankful!

So, now that November 17th's article introduced this blog, I must catch you up on all things Afghanistan! I'm going to insert part of an email I wrote a while ago. I've edited it a bit so that I can post it online. I'm posting it simply to illustrate what it's like over here in Afghanistan. Here goes:

This really is the forgotten war. "War" being the key word. We have Soldiers everywhere in this country. It would be correct to say you might come across a unit of 100 Soldiers sitting in the middle of a valley, or 5 Soldiers in a cave on the side of a mountain. Our people are everywhere! They are living in really harsh conditions, not to mention many of these outposts are getting shot at every night, day in, day out. Another example of the conditions: A unit ran out of food the other day and didn't have any for quite a while. There was a chopper that was inbound to the unit's location. When the chopper landed, the Soldiers on the ground assumed they were being brought food. But, the helicopter wasn't transporting any food, just my friend and a few other people who were landing for purposes that will remain unmentioned. Imagine getting visitors and having no food. The Soldiers were disappointed (OBVIOUSLY) but my visiting friend shared his Oreos. That made them very happy! Can you imagine? No food? What is going on? Where is the malfunction on that one? So, among others, these are some of our Soldier's hardships. I tease about walking a mile to work while fellow Soldiers "outside the wire" are living in holes. I don't take myself too seriously and neither should you. Instead, take serious these Soldiers outside the wire. Their sacrifice and hardship is great. I cringe to think of the cold weather that is coming. It will be so much worse for them once the winter hits. Remember, all this while they are getting shot up all night long. This is going on everywhere.

On a sad note, we have a ceremony here at my location. When a Soldier is killed, their body flies out of country immediately and my location is one of the main hubs for that process. Their bodies are transported here from whatever location (be it a hospital or where ever), and their coffin is at some point draped with a flag. Eight Soldiers move the coffin into a HUMVEE and sit in the back of the vehicle alongside the coffin. Then, the coffin is driven from one point of the airfield, onto the main thoroughfare of this base, then back onto the airfield where it is greeted and placed into a different plane heading to the US. During this process, all of us Soldiers line up on the main drag and salute the coffin as it slowly drives by. A video crew drives behind the vehicle with the coffin in it and that video is, I've been told, later given to the family. The coffin is driven on a route that is maybe about a mile and a half. There will be thousands of Soldiers lining the streets, all saluting as the coffin passes. It is somber...sad. And, we are not the only location that flies the bodies home. What can I say? It's horrible. Most of the time, we are sending the bodies home before the families even know. I sit and think about that and I even feel guilty that I know before they do. No matter how a person feels about where our military is in the world or their political leanings, I urge them to support the military without the typical "but" that I so often have heard from people when I am back at home. "I support the troops, but......." Supporting the troops doesn't have anything to do with politics. Just support the troops and let that support be the only association with that phrase.

Anyway, on to happier subjects. It's interesting here. The Afghan people are hard working. They have so little. Let me rephrase: they have nothing. We have a hospital here that also treats the local kids. We have one little girl who has been here since March. She swallowed a watch battery. Nobody knew, of course, until the batt. acid started eating her esophagus. Eventually, she was sick enough that her parents traveled to bring her here. She has a trach tube now (if that is correct terminology) has had a zillion surgeries and is recovering. She just started walking again. She is 2 and a half. She is so CUTE. While this story certainly has it's sad elements to it, the little girl is alive, well, and being taken care of medically. She surely would have died had it not been for the US hospital. For right now, she is recovering and healthy. Her brother (he's maybe 17 or 18) lives on a cot next to her bed in the hospital. Her parents can not be here as her father must work to feed his family and the mom must stay home with the other children.

There are lots of other little kids here. We have burn victims, bullet wounds, kids that step on mines, etc. This country has, I think (unless it's changed) one of the highest number of active mines laying around. All said, the kids here are getting help from us and that is the good thing to remember. While this all sounds horrible, it is a fact of life here, but we are helping. Without us, a lot of these kids would surely die. This is the reality.

Here's the lesson to take with you: Be thankful for where you were born! Be thankful. I watch people on TV complaining about how much someones investments lost yesterday and while I can appreciate that, being here certainly sheds a different light on the definition of what a crappy life really is. It's hard to boo-hoo along with people when others in the world have so very little. These people could feed their children for their entire childhood with what a person on welfare gets a year. Just be thankful for where you were born......

There you have it, folks. I'm working to get all up to date...

Until next time....


Kate said...

Thank you for sharing these stories. I will be thinking of you and all those in Afghanistan, American and Afghani, often.

karen said...

I've read what you've written so far and thank you for it. Since I am not a mom (of the human kind anyway), I can only imagine how you feel based on what you share. I can and do vividly imagine how exciting it is and how much it makes your heart just smile and fill with love to see the videos/pictures and hear the updates about "E".! Your "husband" is fantastic to keep that coming!!!

I also really appreciate you sharing the description of the "ceremony", the story about the soldiers without food, and elaborating on the children. While I know that is not the purpose of your blog and much of it very sad, I hope you will consider writing more in that vein from time to time.

Those stories make the reality of what is going on personal and ads a whole different level of understanding, empathy, and inspiration to "supporting our troops"! That's important because when left to watch the news or read the paper, it's easy to get wrapped up in intellect and the politics of it all.

As far as being thankful goes, I am. It also sounds like that is one of the true gifts a soldier gets to keep forever.

I'm proud of your strength and equally proud of your softness. You, nor the war in Afghanistan, is anywhere close to being forgotten.

Until next time:)