My best friend left the other day.
He finally arrived in Kabul, safe and sound. We’ve been building up to this day for several months, ever since he received orders to move to Germany. It’s been a whirlwind since then, packing, holidays, moving overseas, unpacking, starting new job and then, whoosh, like a hit in the gut, the day arrives when he’s really leaving for Afghanistan. We aren’t sad that he’s doing his job. We’re sad that he isn’t here to share in life’s daily triumphs as they happen (unless of course, they happen while we’re on Skype).
I’m thankful that his job is not a dangerous one, unless infection from a papercut sets in. He’s a staffer, who’ll work with NATO and Afghan partners. Building bridges, solidifying partnerships. Blahblahblah. The same rhetoric that I heard when I was there. Oh, he’s got the same general who was over us in the south too a couple of years ago as Canada was handing over responsibilities in Kandahar to the U.S. Hopefully, his experience there will be a phenomenally positive addition to the strategies employed now. (No, that was not sarcasm, that was me being real) Honestly, he was a one-star, now a 3-star general, so he must have “dun good”. Hubby will be relatively safe, compared to other US and NATO/Coalition troops who walk among the locals in the countryside each day. I know in his heart he would love to go out and meet the Afghan people; that’s the traveler in him. Safety first. We want Papa back the way he was when he left. That’s really all I want as my opinion of the overall mission there is biased based mainly on my personal experience.
Disclaimer: the following and all original contents of this blog is MY PERSONAL OPINION. I wore a uniform for over 20 years. While I’ve always been Household 6, I’m now The Spouse, a military family member (dependent spouse!), and a retiree, a dichotomous but usually symbiotic relationship. These are MY words, not my husband’s, and certainly not the military’s. If you find my words offensive or disturbing, you don’t need to read further. For those who know me personally, this is the most liberal-sounding you’ll ever hear me spout off. I’m about as patriotic as can be, but I’d like to think that I’m also pretty sensible. Bear with me as I jump on the box for a moment…
You see, thousands of coalition/NATO troops risk their lives on a daily basis sometimes with their Afghan partners, who are drinking from the UN koolaid. Sometimes it’s just walking the streets of the nearby town or the big city like Kabul or Kandahar. Their daily triumph, Coalition troop and Afghan soldier alike, is SURVIVING. I know, I’ve seen our guys after they’ve come back from walking through fields and orchards to knock on doors to shake hands, break down walls, knock out misconceptions about the westerners who have taken it to task to FIX SOMEONE ELSE’S COUNTRY. First world-ers who will gosh-darn-drag them into the 21st century.
Our injured soldiers, with their phenomenally effective protective gear, would come back alive but broken. Sometimes you could see these injuries, loss of limb, eyesight, burns. Sometimes you wouldn’t. But I’d hear about those latent injuries after the return home. Joint pain from one too many falls. Headaches and tinnitus from one too many IED explosions nearby. Hot tempers, sleepless nights. Stressed out is an understatement. Add a healthy dose of survivors guilt and you’ve got one heckuva cocktail for broken families and relationships.
I’ve seen the injuries of our Afghan partners and enemies. Our brave translators who risk their lives each day and those of their loved ones because they know there is a better way, a better world for them. The little kids who were playing in the field to come across a long-buried Russian mine or a recently buried Taliban one. Worse is the kid who was caught setting a device. Yes, he’s just a kid. Maybe there are extenuating circumstances (Ali, I’ll keeee-l you and your whole family too). But now he’s forever marked as an enemy combatant. At 12. Or the child who survived a gunshot wound that killed his mother who was holding him in the bazaar, as she was going about her day? Fix their injuries, show them how kind and generous we are. Win their hearts and minds.
Our partners who don’t have the same high-tech protective gear nor the up-armored vehicles predictably had the worst injuries. Blast injuries that take lower limbs, half a face. Our western medicine can fix injuries, even rebuild new jaws where they no longer exist. But we can’t change a culture overnight or even in a decade. We can give them the tools, the expensive MRIs and CAT scans, the new clinics, schools and hospitals, teach them how to be responsible, provide them security and teach them how to provide it for themselves, fund a bank account or two, but eventually they need to be able to fix themselves, run their own hospitals, military and government administration, shopping bazaars, schools. A nation of tribes doesn’t become a united states in a decade. We had to go through a civil war. History is sometimes just not worth repeating. BUT we keep going because “it’s the right thing to do” (and because someone else told us to go).
I’ll wax eloquent further as time goes on (time for a new page?). However, my old downrangemama page might need some new life too. It’s been on hold since before my return with my last entry right before it got REALLY busy in Kandahar. The enemy was described to me as a fair-weather enemy… hey, who likes to set IEDs when the ground’s frozen solid?
Life doesn’t have a “hold” button.
Sometimes I wish it did so I could just pause it for a sec. But that would probably screw up the space-time continuum. I want to relish the sweet moments and stretch them out just a little further. Puh-leeze? with sugar on top? Okay, how about stevia? I’d rather remember this moment, wouldn’t you?