The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


March 21, 2007

Name: 1SG Troy Steward
Posting date: 3/21/07
Stationed in: Sharana, Afghanistan
Hometown: Amherst, NY
Milblog url:

This is a time of reflection. Four years ago the war in Iraq began, and it has had a profound impact on many of us. I had just flown back from Hawaii, spent six hours packing my stuff at home and flew to NYC. We settled in at LaGuardia airport and worked out of there for the next 30 days supplementing security there, at JFK and on the LIRR. There were soldiers spread throughout NYC securing many other sites.

One year ago I was at Camp Shelby doing some needless training -- 95% of it had nothing to do with here or what we would be doing here. Unfortunately it has not gotten any better, according to the newest people to come over here. They are still doing the same things, and making the same mistakes.

I have been mobilized for 13 months now, and over that time a lot of stuff has happened. This is my second war, so the initial “excitement” of being shot at had its time 16 years ago. But the “time standing still” moments of trucks blowing up, bodies being shredded, or shots being fired at you still cause the adrenaline to pump and the senses to be on overdrive. Those times are still branded into my psyche and probably always will be.

There are other things I will never forget. The bonds between friends that were forged like steel, under heat and pressure. The looks on children’s faces when we handed them a simple “dollar store” stuffed animal or a five-cent piece of Tootsie Roll. The hateful stares of men and some boys as we roll through their villages or walk by their houses. The one curious eye of a woman peering around a head-wrap as she watches us. The smell of dust (yes, it has a smell). The weird weather that goes quickly from snow to sun with a 30 degree rise in temperature.

I have changed, as anyone would spending a year in combat. There are things back home that I used to consider small and insignificant that are now very important to me. I have a higher appreciation of how much our country has, my family has, and I have. There are reminders of this every time I go to a Third World country, but even more so spending a year in the third poorest country there is.

As I reflect over the last year, I know there will be even more to think about once I get back. I still have a little bit of time left here, and who knows what unforeseen events lay out there for me and my team.

I have spent a lot of hours over the last weeks editing together still pictures and videos I have shot here, adding the appropriate music by Flogging Molly. The film below is actually the third one I made, so it is called Volume III. I plan on releasing Volume I, Volume II and others later. The images are of combat operations, life on the FOB, convoys and kids, Afghanistan scenery, and other things that give a brief snapshot of life here. I hope you like what you see.


Thank you Troy... Well done... Very well done... God be with you always...

Wow, what a great job you have done! Thankyou for serving. You and yours keep safe!

1SG Steward: thank you and God Bless you and all of you that are so far from home! you are in our prayers and thoughts! The video is awesome!!

You have made one very moving video; the choice of music couldn't be better. Thanks for bringing some of your experience home for us.

PS I am looking forward to Vol I and II et al. as well; as I'm sure many others are also. You have a talent for blending words, images and music. I hope you continue to develop it. Best wishes, NKI

1ST Stewart,What a moving video,i have seen some of your pictures b4 but to see them like this is great please send more.although if you were home safe and sound that would be ok two.keep safe Peace

1SG Steward: Thanks for the insight and pix. Question re: useless training - what's the surprise there? ;) Home Safe, Top.

Awsome pictures and comments. I really liked it. By the way, if you like the country where you are operating, I would friendly advise you to contact this guy:

He does remarkable pictures and movies of everyday life in Afghanistan and got an RSF prize for its blog style journalism in Kabul.

By reading the other comments I feel I made a huge mistake by calling you Troy...Absolutely no disrespect intended... My apologies, sir ...

1SG Steward, thanks so much for this wonderful glimpse of your life over there and for all you and your fellow soldiers are doing.

Great video/pic compilation. And thanks for the introduction to Flogging Molly.
Never heard of them and now I 'm hooked. Stay safe!

Great flic! Thank you for sharing you "life" over there! My prayers are with all you faithful men & women of the US Armed Forces to come home safely! GodSpeed!

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