IFTAH KHARULLAH |
December 20, 2007
Name: CAPT Benjamin Tupper
Posting date: 12/20/07
Returned from: Afghanistan
A good friend of mine got killed recently in Afghanistan. He was the First Sergeant of the Infantry Company that I was assigned to. Mention of his death won't be in your local newspapers, nor listed on any web sites honoring the fallen, so you probably don't know about him or how he died. He was a great soldier nonetheless, and we have all lost a man who committed his life to the goals of a modern, tolerant, and peaceful Afghanistan. His name was Iftah Kharullah.
Word of his death came last night, while I was sitting in my comfy reclining chair, bathed in the heat of my wood burning stove. The living room where I sat was decked out with colored Christmas lights, a sparkling decorated tree, and my four noisy children who were all getting ready to watch a much anticipated Christmas movie.
I was busy between getting the DVD player up and running and getting my kids situated with snacks, when I saw I had an email from my old Afghan interpreter. It had been weeks since I last heard from him, as he had recently gotten married. Suffice to say, I was expecting some good news.
Instead, in broken English, he had written the following sentance:
"Tooran Tupper…3th company 1st sgt got killed in an action."
I should take a moment to explain that "Tooran" is Dari for "Captain". This was my rank while I was embedded in this Afghan National Army Infantry unit. Everyone called me "Tooran Tupper", from the lowest ranking soldiers of 3rd Company, all the way up to First Sergeant Iftah Kharullah.
The Christmas movie started. The kids laughed. I whispered to my girlfriend that I had just learned of the death of a close Afghan friend. It was such an awkward mix of tragedy and holiday lightheartedness that I think she was caught at a loss for words.
I said nothing of the news to my children. Even though I wanted to tell everyone and anyone this dark news, I didn't want to damper the festive spirit of the evening.
My silence did nothing to lessen Kharullah's memories, which visited me throughout the evening like Marley's Ghost of Christmas Past. I tried to drown him out with a few more beers than normal. I drifted off a few times during the movie to memories of Afghanistan, as I sat there next to the warm stove. But I was always drawn back by the laughter of my children at comical points in the Christmas-themed movie.
First Sergeant Iftah Kharullah died on a very typical mission for 3rd Company. Members of the Battalion had been ambushed in Qarabagh District. Like we had done so many times before, Kharullah's Afghan Company rode out as a quick reaction force to assist the besieged Afghan Army unit. The Executive Officer of 3rd Company was shot and wounded in the ambush, and First Sergeant Kharullah organized a team to go recover him and bring him out of the kill zone. During this attempt, he was shot in the kidney and heart, and died.
The email from my Afghan interpreter went on to say that after First Sergeant Kharullah was shot, the Afghan soldiers moved to recover his body. In this counter attack, seven Taliban were killed. This news gave me a momentary sense of satisfaction that his death had not been for naught. But even with this lopsided final score favoring the Afghan National Army, I was left feeling empty and defeated. No amount of festive holiday spirit could lift my heart from this cold news of a long distance loss.
Here is a picture of me with Kharullah (on the right) and the XO (on the left). In a separate incident last fall the plump officer in the middle was shot three times, but survived.