One of my cousins (and one of the smartest people I know) is serving in Afghanistan right now. He just sent this update and it’s worth a read from someone in-the-know. We hear how things are going over there, but rarely first-hand. It seems we rely too much on pool reporters with agendas.

I have been here in Afghanistan for almost a month now, and two days ago we received the shock that we were not here for 4 1/2 months, but closer to 6 1/2. My initial reaction was a bit of surprise and frustration, but then I went to church mostly with soldiers who are here for 6 months minimum, most of them for 12. And I realized that my life is not that bad.

Most all of the soldiers I meet have volunteered to come back here again and again because, unlike me most of the time, they have come to know the locals both here and in Iraq, have come to love them, and really believe and see the difference that there presence has made in people’s lives. So they leave their own families behind again and again to come over here and get the job done. Regardless of what you think of the politics of the war, you cannot help but swell with emotion when talking to these “Joes,” as they are called. Where they come from I don’t know, but their parents obviously taught them a thing or two about selfless service.

I get paid a pretty good salary for what I do, and yet there are many enlisted troops who get paid pennies for this, and still they come over here because they believe in what they are doing. And they care for their fellow soldiers and the people of the villages,
people who for generations have known nothing but war, brutality, and a harshness not imagined by Americans. We speak of injustice, cruelty, and human rights, but most of these people barely understand the concepts, so foreign they are to them. But as they have gotten a taste, and have learned that the Americans are here until the job is done, they love what they feel and want more.

To illustrate, there is an Air Force Air Controller who spent the better part of 6 months up in the Hindu Kush mountains, where their only supply line was via helicopter. He and his radio operator and maintenance guys lived up there alone, watching the mountains near the pakistani border for evidence of Talibani forces moving into the valleys to terrorize the citizens and attack the US forces. They were so isolated that he said, in order to preserve their clothing since they had no laundry services, they often sat around in the buff, talking to aircraft, patrolling the surrounding countryside. Well, part way into his rotation, out of nowhere a group of Afghani mountain men scaled the supposedly unscalable rock walls to meet them, and they instantly bowed down to them and thanked them for saving them from the Taliban. The Taliban had terrorized their village for years, and the ‘guardian angel’ brought down the magic from the sky and destroyed and scared off the Taliban from their village. To show their appreciation, they had killed
a bear and brought it with them to feast with the controller and his tiny group. I’m sure that it made every minute up there eating MREs, sleeping under the stars, and being away from family and friends worth it. And that is just one of thousands of examples. I am among some great people here, and if there is a bright future for America, it is not because of our technology, our elite schools, or our wi-fi, but because of these selfless individuals who serve because it is the right thing to do.

There are some pretty evil people over here. Our country is not perfect, but to equate our foibles or the sins of a few with the
institutional evil that is the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and every other organization that relishes the destruction of their brethren is not only
wrong, but dangerous. We cannot save the world, and we often should not stick our nose in other people’s business (as we have often done), but there should be no question of right or wrong in this conflict. We can discuss how to address the evil that exists, but there is no equality between American sins and the evil that we face.

Flying has been a little slow thus far, but I have seen some fantastic country. Close to the Pakistani border, we fly over some of these tiny outposts like I just spoke of, providing them a little cover in case someone who doesn’t want them there tries to oust them. I love camping, but some of these places are more than austere. Some have no way in or out except by air, receive their rations via airdrops, and the only warm shower is the one they had prior to getting in country many months ago.

Often, the most exciting thing about my sorties is getting gas from the Air to Air refuelers, trying not to get hit by the ton of unmanned aircraft over here, but it is all worth it if I feel like I am helping the soldiers on the ground. We have a motto on our door that reads “The real mission is that 18-yr old on the ground, and everything else is support.” That really sums it up, and makes it all worthwhile. I fly about 2-3 times a week, which when you are away from home is never enough, but with my workload I never really have a day off. I’ll get plenty of those when I retire, I guess. I do love my job as the operations officer of the squadron, as I do very little work, but supervise a whole bunch and get a say in everything. Not a bad gig.

Our living conditions are fine. Lots of dust, sometimes I wonder why I shower, but the food is good, there is a good gym close by, I have plenty to read. I do miss my family terribly, but I know that they will be there when I get home. 6 months is a long time, but not an eternity. I have them for eternity.

Thanks for listening to my rambling, but there were just a few things that I felt were worth sharing. Please have an enjoyable fall, and be glad that you are not a Taliban looking up at the barrel of my 30mm cannon. It’s not pretty from that angle.