Green Room

A Soldier’s Wife, On Afghanistan

posted at 3:58 pm on April 26, 2010 by

Isn’t it funny how sometimes you can’t read something good without hunting for the tarnished, dark lining? I’ve read this twice, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have one.

When you think of the war in Afghanistan, what images come to mind? Taliban fighters? Burqa-clad women? Poppy fields? Debating politicians? War protesters?

The most recent image that comes to my mind is my toddler son blowing kisses to the governor of Shah Wali Kot District.

It’s an editorial written by the wife of a soldier on his sixth deployment to Afghanistan — a woman from San Francisco, no less. And her great outlook and huge heart made me smile in several ways.

It’s said that Americans have never before been so disconnected from the soldiers who are fighting on their behalf. You can change that. Find a family with a loved one serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Listen to their stories. Learn how they see the war – and how they cope with kin in combat.

Not bad advice, huh? And on a website like CSM, she’s not preaching entirely to the choir, either.

But check this part out. Her husband’s company helped open a school in Shah Wali Kot, and she decided to help too, by holding a charity drive to raise money for supplies needed at the school — to help the kids her husband saw every day, half a world away, but she could never expect to meet.

“The district governor wants you to know,” began the interpreter, “that because of those supplies, 200 children who are so very poor now have a school.” He went on to explain, “Before your husband came here, the area was so dangerous. Now people are safer and happier.”

Meanwhile, the evening news often shows only the dark side of war. A roadside bomb or missile strike will always get more attention than quiet, yet far-reaching, acts of diplomacy and nation-building between US soldiers and Afghan civilians.

Do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing. It’s nothing all that special — just one more American family trying to patch back together what the Taliban broke — so of course it’s amazingly special. And if you’re the sniffly sort, this serves as your official kleenex warning.

My son doesn’t know about war yet. But one day he will study the Afghan war in school. When he does, I’ll remind him of the morning he blew kisses to the district governor of Shah Wali Kot and his dad in uniform, next to him.

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Thank you for this post, Tanya. It’s a great and too seldom shown view of the difference real people can make in even politically freighted circumstances.

But it also reminds me of something the folks at home often don’t think of, which is this: there is absolutely nothing that means more to the soldier deployed overseas than his or her connection with the loved ones back home.

If there is anyone whom this soldier wants to have understand and be a part of his professional victories in Afghanistan — small and pedestrian though they may seem in the big scheme of things — it’s his wife and son at home. It makes all the difference in the world that there is someone carrying a cell phone 24/7 waiting for him to call, and a smiling, clapping son for his friend the district governor to wave at.

The families back home are the inspiration, the link, the reason why we fight. What a wonderful demonstration in this story of why they are worth fighting for.

J.E. Dyer on April 26, 2010 at 8:07 PM

Right?! I didn’t want to blockquote the whole thing, but I loved that she leaves her phone on and carries it everywhere, answering it day or night, rain or shine.

I hope everyone went to the link. She really did leave me in tears — for her pride and her joy and her missing him, all at once. I’m in awe of her strength.

Tanya on April 26, 2010 at 10:01 PM

However on the other hand and there usually is one.

US troops feel abandoned by their chains of command, bilked by military recruiters, and participants in a conflict that history will not treat kindly. They will return to the US and to civilian life full of disappointment, bitterness at their commanders, and unwilling to serve again. And military commanders here are doing their very best to ensure that this never reaches the public.

As of today, my photos, videos, and writing have been so closely monitored by the command that I have elected to remove all imagery for fear of jeopardizing the troops on the ground. Commanders are using the images and footage to threaten Article 15s for Soldiers photographed out of uniform, and also threatening to relieve platoon sergeants and first sergeants for allowing such things to happen. Professionally, I have been bound and gagged – that is unless I’m willing to burn an entire troop (or squadron) of Soldiers in the process of telling the US public what’s happening – which would be counterproductive.

My next step will be to file a formal complaint with commanders who use media resources to incriminate their own subordinates. This command, I have determined, is far more concerned with looking pretty than accomplishing their mission. I also think that, somehow, the US public needs to know about it.
– Ben Shaw (currently embedded with US forces in Afghanistan)

MB4 on April 27, 2010 at 3:40 AM

‘Corroborate and “the truth will set you free”!’

Corroboration is a tool we all seek in determining validity. What follows shortly is a first-hand accounting of the cost of the failed policies of this administration and the last in Afghanistan. I want to give full credit to Herschel Smith at ‘The Captain’s Journal’ for bringing this to light. The contacts he has fostered have led to this piece which I believe to be of particular significance and pivotal to the discussion.

For the past several months I have been making the case, in this Blog, for my fellow Warriors – especially for the actively employed but also the retired, that the current strategy in Afghanistan is doomed to failure. Doomed because the assessment of the enemy, the local government and civilian population has been skewed by wrong – if any, historical analysis. We are also back in the cycle of the socialist world view which precludes specific national interests and imperils our Warriors, a national asset, for the purposes of rebuilding a foreign nation. The lives of our Warriors have been trumped by the lives of a civilian population that has no understanding of the freedoms we now perilously take for granted. Because the concept of personal freedom is anathema to the Koranic principles the Afghans willingly apply to their lives, families and culture, they lack any motivation to fight for freedom or any change. Because they will not fight for it; they do not deserve it. ‘They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ Benjamin Franklin. In essence, we are wasting the lives of our precious national resource; our Sons and Daughters for the purposes of freedom for those who neither understand it, nor want it and who are not covered by the oaths sworn by our Warriors.

Our civilian ‘servants’ inside the DC beltway are equally culpable in this squandering of this most precious asset. What follows is the witness of an imbedded reporter and his experiences with our forces, on the ground, in Afghanistan, which corroborates everything I have been saying about the Commanders Intent, Vision, Strategy, Assessment of the Enemy, Human Terrain and ROE since I launched this Blog in October of last year. The negative feeling expressed by our Warriors in this piece is but one of the fruits of the failed vision of this and the past administrations in shifting focus in Afghanistan:

“From the comments section in An Open Letter to Milbloggers, journalist Ben Shaw gives us this very depressing perspective from Afghanistan.

As a journalist (and combat veteran) currently embedded with US forces in Afghanistan, I have found that roughly 95% of the troops on the ground in no way believe in their mission, have no confidence that their efforts will bring about lasting change to Afghan security, stability, governance, or a decreased influence of radicalism. In truth, they fight simply to stay alive and want nothing more than to go home. A recent quote:

“I joined to defend and fight for the United States, but now I feel like I’ve been tasked out to fight for Afghanistan. Yet the people don’t even care, and make no effort whatsoever to help us help them. They don’t WANT help.”

Ben Shaw hit-it-right-on-the-head; THEY DID NOT SIGN TO DEFEND THE INDEFENSIBLE. They signed to defend the ‘Constitution of the United States, against all enemies foreign and domestic’; not to rebuild a country that has never known peace, has never sought peace, has never lived well with others, that bears an ideology of one of the most hateful religions known to the history of mankind and; oh yeah, doesn’t want us or what we have.

MB4 on April 27, 2010 at 3:44 AM