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.

SPRING IN MAZAR-E-SHARIF |

April 05, 2010

SPRING IN MAZAR-E-SHARIF
Name: CPT Mark Martin
Posting date: 4/5/10
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: New Hope, MN
Milblog: 270 Days in Afghanistan
Email: moosecpt@gmail.com

Framed Martin SPRING 1 Mother Nature has officially declared the end of winter here in Northern Afghanistan. In the mountain passes, trees are blooming and the mountainsides are lush with new green brought about by the significant amounts of rain that the region has received over the course of the last month. There is no doubt about it, spring has sprung.

The provincial government has started to plant trees along the roadside, which says a couple of Framed Martin SPRING 2 things to me about where the province is at in the economic recovery process for the region. First and foremost, the effort to improve the landscape signals a departure from the stark and frightening goal of simply having a roof over their heads. The local Afghans here in this province seem to have progressed well into the middle of the pyramid of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The second thing it says to me is that optimism has made a comeback among these people. Thirty years ago, Afghanistan was a majestic place, filled with tree lined parks and several local landmarks which people came from all around to see. 

After the Soviet invasion, and subsequently for the next 25 years or so, Afghans found themselves in difficult social and financial straits. Years of oppressive regimes and lack of economic stability or Framed Martin SPRING 3 growth brought about a depression similar to our own hard times in the 1930s. Trade routes shrank and in some cases died out altogether, which left residents without essential, everyday staples of survival. Most of the trees in those majestic parks and along those avenues were cut down for firewood in order to heat homes and cook meals. The scarring of the countryside and its people could be seen and felt across the land. Until now.

Although the past can never be changed for these people and their lives, the future is looking just as bright and full of promise as this year's spring. Every day their government and police forces are making strides toward becoming self sufficient. The more we continue to work alongside our Afghan National Army counterparts, the better things seem to get. Don't get me wrong, there are still hurdles to jump and sizable roadblocks to get through before we can claim a resounding success here, but as with all things, every little bit helps. As long as we can see those incremental advances, this is a fight worth finishing.

Comments

Great to hear some positive news from Afghanistan. Keeping you and all your men/women in our thoughts and prayers. I hope that the people of the country continue to work together with you to grow into a peaceful and plentiful place.

I hope your positive observations are right. you are participating in something that has elements of the good and moral. You, personally, give a positive face to the presence of American soldiers in Afghanistan. Your personal motives are clearly beautiful. But I can't help dreading the effect on soldiers like you when, as with VietNam, you may have to face the revelations, again, of the cynical use of American troops in a not-moral political power struggle.

As I read this site I hear over and over about the heart-wrenching experiences and emotions of returned Iraq/Afghanistan veterans.

Despite knowing that they are a volunteer force, and that most Americans don't know what's going on, and usually don't care, either, these Vets are devastated emotionally when they encounter disregard for their service and the war itself. They think they are prepared for normal life in America, but they're not and can't be. They've invested too much and believe in their country's reasons for fighting.

one reason for the disconnect between a military experience and a civilian one is that the history of most wars we have fought have been revealed to be based on cynical and deceptive grounds. And so most Americans want to sheild themselves emotionally from an empty patriotism. they are waiting to see if we are again going to have to bite the reality of another VietNam. They believe that most of the conflicts we've engaged in haven't been remotely worthy of the sacrifice of those who fought, or of those who have funded such wars. Or lived in the warzone as nationals. And in fact, they feel that the conflicts have usually been severely harmful to our country and to the people who are caught up in our global ambitions/misunderstandings.

My reluctant conclusion, so far, is that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are in that same pattern of tragic and catastrophic military disasters that veil our history in tears.

I still hope for some scrap of good to come from this effort, and know too, that your personal efforts are noble and sincere and good.

But please please know that when you come home, and people don't care about what you have given, or if
you yourself, in time, come to the conclusion that you were part of something not moral or necessary, you can accept that that's the nature of life. Prepare yourself for what might have to be accepted. You aren't being betrayed and your efforts aren't being questioned. We all, as citizens of America, have to live with the parts of our history that we hate and regret. Don't be a casualty of disillusionment. It's part of life. I think that the bitterness of the VietNam vets is the worst injury that war inflicted on them. Please take care of your heart and mind as well as your body. with great love and admiration, JRael

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