When I think about the cause of our time in Afghanistan, it is based on the very real existence of evil. Secondary to this is our notion that we can change people’s fundamental beliefs on life & relationship in a matter of months or years. Change takes generations.
It’s not that the Afghan people are all evil. But the tribal nature and illiteracy of their society lends itself to manipulation by a small power based. And power often can be corrupted (or corrupting).
Therefore there is an entire nation (practically) living in fear and under deception of the evil we represent by being there.
I have no doubt that almost anyone I interacted with would have, under the right circumstances, taken my life. The circumstances being a perceived matter of survival for themselves or their families.
Sadly, I also saw a primitive side of the Americans. One of the most heart wrenching things was the manipulation of the young Afghan boys (young men really) who would work in the camps. Manipulated by the American Soldiers I saw (our men of power in that situation) throwing rocks, teaching vulgar words and phrases, insulting, and rewarding rude and demeaning behaviors.
This is winning hearts and minds for a generation? We are teaching them to hate us – can’t you see that? Are you so filled with hate yourself that you need to demean these young men who will soon carry a gun themselves?
I stood over the flag draped caskets and body bags of countless young Soldiers / Marines (20 perhaps in the year). I tried to say a word of comfort to those who remained, I tried to provoke the Commands present to emotion, I wondered about the families who would receive these gift boxes.
Perhaps the worst occasion was the burned bodies of 4 MARSOC Marines – perhaps some of the most highly trained and lethal warriors in the world – burned to a crisp in a hooch fire caused by faulty electrical wiring. I was on the scene early and tried to talk to some of the survivors – those lucky enough to get out of the fire early – some “stood guard” at the head of the flag draped stretchers the remains rested on.
We had an ad lib ramp ceremony as they were loaded on a helicopter, then another ramp ceremony on the airfield as they were transported across the country to Bagram overnight. I rode with the MARSOC team and we slept on the floor of the plane. As I read from a Psalm at one point, these men started to weep, not just a tear, but to CRY out loud. I watched them during the week, getting supplies from the PX, smoking cigars, staying close to one another.
Sorry guys, I’d love to stay longer, but Disney World waits. What difference do I make anyway?
There is no safety – it is pure illusion. Some of the 100+ flights I was on had gunners hanging out the side of the bird, some we were required to wear body armor and helmet. By the end I rarely even cared, because most flights were old civilian helicopters, and doubtful there was even a side arm on board. I’d sit, and close my eyes, sing along to Billy Joel and wait.
“hey sir” when you hear incoming stand with your back against these walls here because they are all coming from that direction. “if you know where they are coming from why don’t you go get them?” “They are in Pakistan – we can’t” “You mean they set your entire camp on fire and you can’t do a thing about it?” The four days I was there, each night there was least 4 or 5 mortars dropped. I just stayed in bed and prayed and went back to sleep.
Only 2 came to my service there – they were late because they had to clean first.
No one understands this. I didn’t understand this. I really don’t know what we did there in a year. We lost lives, we created fear, we inserted hatred, and we came home and went to Disney. And NO ONE will talk about it. My mom asked some questions, but no one else.
Before I left, we conducted about 20 memorial ceremonies for MiTT team members attached to our BDE. I was new, naïve. I wanted to make a good impression.
But let’s talk about the lives that were lost on this side of the ocean.
The depressed and very high risk soldier, my friend, who died in a high speed chase with police.
The Chaplain, my friend, who put a bullet in his head and left his wife and friends and family to clean up the mess.
The single car accident at 0100 heading the wrong way on an isolated highway.
The mysterious asphyxiation while sleeping a few days before his girlfriend’s husband came home from Iraq
The soldier who died clutching an air can he used to get high
The young South Korean Soldier attached to our unit who jumped in front of a train his first weekend pass out of basic training.
I looked at their families, I held their hands, I talked to their moms and dads and wives, I tried to provide an answer to why – or at least to comfort, I spoke words, I put on a uniform and stood at attention, I went to their funerals, I conducted their memorial ceremonies. One dad told me he was sorry I had lost a friend. I will never forget his words.
The young man who struggled to come to terms with his homosexuality for 6 years, and told no one because he didn’t know how his Christian parents would react. My Son the Graduate – we love you no matter what!! I am sorry you were alone all that time right in our house.
The young man who was hurting so bad he decided to stick a hypodermic needle in his arm. My Son the Sailor, how could you not know you are my favorite person in the world?
The young girl who moved out on her 18th birthday graduated high school 8 months pregnant. Jamie, I am so sorry I could never replace the love of the father you needed so badly.
The young man who tried to leave home at 17 because . . . just because he couldn’t stand it there. You are truly better off alone now with your wife and son. I am sorry Mountain Man.
It makes me sad. Too sad. I didn’t know there was so much pain in the world. I didn’t know there could be so much pain in my own home.
There is no safety, there is no control. Why do we go on? Why do we care?
All I ever do is try to make someone laugh or smile or feel loved. I never tried to hurt anyone at all. And I don’t like the hate . . .