DECENCY AND HONOR |
January 29, 2007
DECENCY AND HONOR
Name: CAPT B. Tupper
Posting date: 1/29/07
Stationed in: Ghazni, Afghanistan
Milblog url: www.myspace.com/42094372
Unfortunately I was sick with whatever it is that has caused me lose twenty five pounds in less than two months, and was unable to go out on our planned mission to our most contested district. But my teammate Ski still had to go, so I wished him well.
When he returned that evening I went over to get debriefed on how things went. As I got close to him, I immediately noticed his uniform was covered in blood, dirt and gore. His normal upbeat and sunny vulgar disposition was absent, and I knew some heavy stuff had gone down. I made him a quick dinner while he told me about the mission. He was in no mood to cook, and could barely manage to light his cigarette. The "thousand yard stare" was in full effect -- he was clearly still out on the battlefield, reliving the various "what ifs" that had played themselves out earlier in the day.
The story started predictably: Taliban ambush, returned fire, RPGs, near misses, etc. As the engagement developed, Ski and the ETT soldiers riding in his Humvee were firing on, and receiving AK and RPG fire from, Taliban soldiers in a small village. The ETTs and ANA soldiers maneuvered into the village and immediately came across a handful of wounded and dead Taliban. Some were dead where they fell, others had crawled into shallow ditches and lay there dying. The fire from the ETT and ANA forces had been so fierce that the Taliban had abandoned their wounded, which is uncommon. We normally find blood trails and no wounded after we engage them.
Now Ski is an infantryman to the core. He chomps at the bit before each mission, hoping we will encounter the enemy. He is not one to wax humanistic. His normal response to most questions about the Taliban is to express a desire to destroy them in combat.
But Ski, upon seeing the wounded Taliban, immediately grabbed his Combat Life Saver medical bag and moved to begin treating them. Doing this was at risk to his own life. The enemy was still in the area, and the wounded lay in ditches in an open road. Without hesitation, he used his limited medical supplies on the enemy, in an attempt to give them comfort and aid.
While he ate the food I'd prepared for him, he described how one of the injured Taliban was going into shock. His femoral artery had been hit and he was bleeding out.
"This guy was looking at me with fear in his eyes, expecting me to finish him off. When he realized I was trying to stop his bleeding, he relaxed and put his hand over his heart." In Afghanistan, it's customary among men to put their hands over their hearts as a sign of deep respect and thanks.
Here is a Taliban man dying, felled by our bullets, showing a final act of thanks for decent treatment. And there is Ski, the warrior, holding this man in his arms trying to make his final moments as comfortable and painless as possible.
That image of compassion from an unlikely source, in an unlikely place, is stuck in my head. As I sat there and listened to Ski, coated with the enemy's blood, I knew this day would stay with him for the rest of his life. It's a small, but tangible example of decency and honor in an environment full of hate and pain.