A FAREWELL TO ARMS |
May 29, 2009
A FAREWELL TO ARMS
Name: Vampire 06
Posting date: 5/29/09
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: Folsom, CA
Milblog: Afghanistan Shrugged
Memorial Day 2009 will be one that I remember for the rest of my life. By my own admission I’ve not treated Memorial Day with the appropriate gravitas. Like many Americans, I’m embarrassed to say, I understood why we celebrated it but failed to completely embrace it. It tended to be another day off to barbeque and spend time at home.
It is humbling to stand in a war zone and see your country’s flag flown at half mast in honor of those that have made the ultimate sacrifice on her behalf. I think back to others in my family that glimpsed a similar sight. My father in Vietnam, with the Sky Soldiers, and his father before him with the Tough Hombres at Normandy; I’m just the next in line to pick up the family trade, the profession of arms.
This year is different though. I lost one of my soldiers several nights ago during a mortar attack. He wasn’t an American but he was no less a patriot and no less my soldier. He was a Sergeant in the Afghan National Army. He’ll have to remain nameless as those that wished to do his country harm will still attempt to reach out and harm his family even after his passing.
In a country where so many chose to sit on the sideline, to wait and critique, he chose to pick up arms and insure that his country would not be ruled by a despot or religious fanaticism. He fought to guarantee a better future for his fellow citizens.
He chose a life of hardship and danger. Serving beside the best equipped and trained military in the world, he fought to the best of his ability with what his country supplied him, his spirit and his determination moving him forward into battle.
His sacrifices will not be forgotten. Yesterday we had his memorial service; much different than what we have for US soldiers. We gathered behind the mosque; we being ANA, ETT and the CF Company here. The death of one soldier, no matter the country, is memorialized by all. ACM bullets, rockets and mortars do not differentiate between US and Afghan.
The mullah sang several suras from the Koran and the Kandak Commander spoke about the important choices each had made to defend their country. Not that much different from what a US Commander would say. Even through my interpreter I understood the meaning, “Don’t let your brother die in vain, keep up the fight.”
After this we departed and the Kandak entered the mosque to pray and remember their brother. That it was Memorial Day in the US made it all the more poignant. As I walked back across the FOB my boots stirred up the chalky Afghan soil that has absorbed so much Afghan and American blood.
Some reading this may wonder why I’ve chosen to write about an Afghan on Memorial Day, when there are so many great Americans to be remembered. I see no difference between my dead ANA soldier and Americans. If I could, I would have made him an honorary American citizen there on the spot. He embodied what we believe in, the fight for what is right.
So, this Memorial Day and those forward will be much different. I’ll remember those who’ve sacrificed for my country and celebrate their lives, but I’ll also remember a lone Afghan sergeant who perished in a distant corner of the world in hope that one day his country will be free from tyranny and evil.