Overall, I enjoyed my visit to Afghanistan. I met some wonderful people and I saw some of the beautiful country. Just like any other part of the world, you can find the negatives such as killing, trash, waste, corruption and so on. I am adding some photos today. I do not want to say exactly where these were taken as I want to continue to protect the families, children, the locals, the police and the afghan army members who are trying to reclaim their country from their violent neighbors and who are simply trying to survive.
One year ago this weekend, I was in the lead vehicle in a convoy that set out to help the local people in Afghanistan. My head phones were on to communicate with others in my truck and I was stealing glimpses out of a small section of the front window to prevent getting car sick. Our team bounced around the countryside past vineyards and grape drying huts. We noticed a disturbance in the soil in the middle of the dirt road. The truck commander instructed the driver to veer around it and as we did a deafening explosion resonated through each of our headsets. The back end of my truck kicked up. I was concerned I was going to hit my head on the ceiling. Just prior to leaving the base, I had cinched down my seatbelt more than usual. I was just millimeters from the roof. I saw dirt out the side window tear off the view of the vineyards and replace it with a field of brown for a moment. I felt gravity invite me then pulled me back to earth. My right elbow struck a metal box next to me and delivered an incredible pain. The truck began to settle into position and then stopped. Tan dust began to suffocate what little air we had. I looked across from me then to my left, checking on each member in the truck. I unbuckled. I waited a couple of seconds then rose up to open the escape hatch. I cringed waiting for a complex attack to ensue. I anticipated I would be met with machine gun fire. I raised the hatch. My gunner was still in position pulling duty. I checked outside of my vehicle, saw the sky above and the ground below. There was no immediate attack. I got up on the roof and assisted each team member out. A security element was formed. When night fell, we continued our mission. We were successful in setting up a police security station, demonstrating to the locals how they could have sustainable potable water using things in their local area, met with village elders and providing security for the local people.
With all that being said. I know the man responsible for attempting to kill me. I worked with him. He knew our missions because he was the Afghan Army Leader who planned them with us. He was also working for the Taliban. He was corrupt on so many levels and his world came crashing down on him one day. He happened to be with us several vehicles back.
I was bitterly angry. I met with my friend and chaplain. I told him I knew I should forgive the man but I found it very difficult. Our role was to help people being oppressed. He attempted to permanently separate me from my family and I was mad. I experienced a lot of mortars, RPGs, and rockets. This made me truly angry. I became edgy, short tempered, and quick to fire off a sarcastic remark over the next few weeks. I prayed for forgiveness and I do to this very day. I pray for him that he tried to murder me. I pray for myself due to the anger I developed.
My role was to help people. I was not a combatant. This man valued money over human life.
I forgive you and pray that God will forgive you.
Today is Memorial Day. It is a day which many Americans remember and reflect on those who served and ultimately gave their lives for their fellow mankind. For some, it is a day off work, others a day to barbecue or to enjoy adult beverages. Some have to work, especially if in the service industry such as fire, police, medical/nursing, corrective services, dispatchers and many others.
This past week, I had the honor and privilege of meeting James “Maggie” Magellas. He is the highest decorated Army Officer of the 82D Airborne Division. He served with the 504 Regiment. He was a normal American of European ancestry and grew up in Wisconsin. When called to serve his nation, he became a communication officer, later a glider pilot and ultimately served as an infantry platoon leader.
I listened to him speak about his journey to Italy via Northern Africa. The 101st Airborne is well known in American history and has been portrayed in films such as Band of Brothers. The 101st was part of the D-Day invasion to liberate Europe penetrating the beaches of France. The 82D served in the sands of North Africa and worked their way to Italy and Germany.
He described his accounts across the Waal River and noted the leading officer to bang on the side of a tiny boat repeating “Hail Mary, full of grace. Hail Mary, full of grace”. Bullets whizzed past and shells exploded around. This was a daytime river crossing, during broad daylight, in which the Germans held the high ground and had the tactical advantage.
He continued with the airborne operation into Nijmegen during Operation Market Garden. This was demonstrated in the movie “A Bridge Too Far”. An example of an airborne insertion into enemy territory was shown.
I purchased his book All the Way to Berlin and he has a film documenting his time in the 82D in conjunction with the World War II Foundation, Tim Gray Media, and Ocean State Media. Here is the link to the trailer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg8XA3BjgFg
You may also see the show on PBS or can order directly from him. Per Mr. Megellas, “Lead from the front and your men will follow”.
I have been fortunate to get to know a few veterans along my journey in life. Mr. Megellas served in WWII. Tom Lyons of Minnesota served in Korea, JP Winstead served in the Pacific in WWII and his son in Viet Nam. A gentleman I attend church with was a Green Beret in the Pacific during Viet Nam. Jim Lane served in Somalia. I have had the privilege of meeting folks who were in the military in Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm, and others who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I ask that you take a moment and say a prayer for all people around the world as we all work towards world peace. I do not know anyone wishing for war. Some did volunteer to serve while others were called by their nation. Others found service locally in fire, law enforcement, medical, teaching or other government service. Take a moment to thank those, pray for those who have been affected by war, violence, and loss, and enjoy this Memorial Day.
Make It Fun!
Yesterday, I stopped into the local movie house in Raleigh, North Carolina. The film du jour…Star Trek: Into Darkness. For those who are fans of the Star Trek films, I am sure most have already seen this in the past week. However, I found it had a great combination of intelligence, displays of physical fitness, and developing leaders in times of strife/controversy.
If you have not seen the film, Captain James T. Kirk and crew face one of their own when they have to work with and later battle Khan. The name Khan is used in many parts of the world and is of royalty most notably in the Pashtun regions of western Pakistan, eastern Afghanistan, Mongolia, and India; possibly descendants of the historical warrior Ghengis Khan. In Star Trek, Khan was a member of Star Fleet who was genetically modified to have improved intelligence, physical prowess, and healing abilities.
The character Khan is played by Benedict Cumberbach, an actor with an incredible future ahead of him unlike many other actors. Mr. Cumberbach, until recently, was better known for his PBS role of Sherlock depicted from the original literature set in modern times.
Kirk is played by Chris Pine. Kirk is often finding himself in physical altercations and yet has the intellectual ability to think his way through difficult and challenging situations.
I appreciate the works of director J.J. Abrams and creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat in that they celebrate intelligence. Unlike many films of the 1970s and 80s in which the selling point was often topless women to entice film viewers or to be sickly rail thin like Twiggy, films of today are beginning to reflect a new view that is more intriguing. Characters with a combination of physical strength and endurance with intelligence. This combination may be the new sexy. Intelligence has often been overlooked in history or has been exclusive from physical capabilities, though this unique combination brought together develops a more appealing leader. This may be even evident in the new James Bond films which Bond is less about jumping into bed and more about chasing the enemy in Parkour style and utilizing his intelligence to problem solve.
Spock mentioned in the film that he cannot lie. Sadly, he mentions that he does not believe in miracles, though if you know his character you know this is an honest statement for him.
You see the story unfold realizing that one person cannot complete the task or mission alone. It takes a team. And in that team, members accept responsibility for the good and the bad, the accomplishments and the failures, all that the team does and does not accomplish.
As our world society continues to become more obese and vastly increase long term health effects, it greatly decreases productivity and causes staggering rises in health care costs. We all have responsibility in ourselves, our families, our jobs, our society and our world. We have responsibility to lead healthy lives, healthy lives lead to mentally sound lives and our spiritually fulfilled lives lead to better citizens. We must accept responsibility for all we do and all we fail to do.
I appreciate the change in films and in an ever increasing awareness in our society of holistic approach to topics. I appreciate people stepping up to be leaders and understanding that in a leader, we demand accountability and reward them when the job is done honestly and correctly. I am not out to sell anything or project any particular view or body image on anyone. I am trying to encourage people to have physically, mentally, and just as important, spiritually fit lives.
Make It Fun!
There are many beautiful places in Afghanistan and many wonderful people.
The Streets of Afghanistan was a project based in hope. Using photography as voice, and art as activism, we set up a series of street art installations in Afghanistan. Red Reel was with us to document five of the seven exhibitions. We can now share with you the beauty of the country, the reactions of those that saw the exhibition, and the place that art has in conflict zones. It was such an honor to bring this exhibition to Afghanistan and to share it with Afghans. We return in the spring for a finale exhibition in a secret location, and then distribute the photographs to orphanages, girls schools, women’s groups, Kabul stadium, and the Mayor’s office as a thank you for his office’s support of this public exhibition in the Kabul locations. Thank you everyone that supported this project, we couldn’t be prouder.