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Is Death The Cost of Serving One’s Country?

“Even as a soldier with seven years and two combat tours under her belt, I never think about dying from my occupation. This man has accepted his fate and that still has not deterred him from serving his people. In the news across the waters in the U.S., you don’t see much of those kinds of interviews.”

I have been at Forward Operating Base Salerno for over a week now, and I must admit, I like it better here than my last post, Bagram Airfield. Sure, the constant sounds of bombs and gunfire from the aerial gunnery range, where soldiers in the helicopters practice shooting targets, were annoying at first, but they have become as dream ready as police sirens and gunshots outside my window back home in Brooklyn. I am just more thankful that the bombs and gunfire are coming from us and not the enemy.

Last week, I went with a U.S. Army military police company to an Afghan police station where I witnessed the Afghans’ training program meant to improve its force. There is a communication barrier between us and the locals that can be frustrating, due to the language and culture, but the Army police did the best they could to make sure the Afghans got the message of cooperation. Seeing the friendly and professional interaction between both parties gave me tingles of optimism. It brought hope that one day the Army will leave Afghanistan and everything we shared will be properly practiced. We can only do what we can and hope for the best. The Afghan officers were so humble and respectful, especially to me as a woman. I think they were actually shy and we were even invited to a gourmet Afghan lunch, where the food was better than what is served to us on the bases!

Later, when I brought my camera out the Afghan officers began showing off a bit. That’s natural for everybody, even the hard-core soldiers. I interviewed a senior ranking Afghan police officer who’s been in the force for seven years and asked him how long does he plan to stay in.

“I’d probably get killed soon [in the line of duty] by the Taliban, but I’ll stay in as long as I can because this is what I want to do,” he replied.

His answer made me numb.

Even as a soldier with seven years and two combat tours under her belt, I never think about dying from my occupation. This man has accepted his fate and that still has not deterred him from serving his people. In the news across the waters in the U.S., you don’t see much of those kinds of interviews. You see that we are at war with a nation that has a population of over 29 million people. Not all of these people are Taliban however. Some are actually risking their lives and endangering their family’s lives by becoming a police officer or soldier to make a difference in their country. After we are done dropping bombs all over their deserted, famished land, and go back to our grass covered America, these men and women will still have to live here and pick up what we’ve left behind.

Here’s a little history lesson for you: When Russia left Afghanistan in early 1989 after ten years, they didn’t leave the Afghan people with many tools with which to rebuild. When I was here in 2005, I didn’t know what American troops were doing here nor did I really care. I just was excited to ignorantly boast that I had served in a war. Now as an older woman and a broadcast journalist, I have explored beyond the perimeters surrounding the bases I have slept in. I have shaken hands with the men, women and children in the various provinces here in this country and they are indeed, a beautiful and hurt people.

I just don’t know if Americans back home will ever really believe the efforts that we put into educating the Afghans so that they can take the lead and we can come home.

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