MY LAST DAY - 2011
I don’t know what happened to the time, but I am leaving Afghanistan with more questions than I came with.
When I arrived the questions were: How can I help? What can I do? Where do I fit in a unit of Special Forces, Navy SEALs, and Rangers? Looking around that first day I realized, quickly, that everyone was bigger, faster, and smarter than me.
And now, six months later, after OBLs death, after countless soldiers, sailors, marines, and airman have died for the service of their country. I ask different questions.
Now they are: Was it worth it? What now? What happens when we leave? What will happen to the little girls that I saw in the orphanage? (Which someone explained to me shouldn’t really be called an orphanage, because there is really no chance of adoption for those girls) Did we win?
I know better than to try and answer those questions now.
I’m stubbornly optimistic. I want to believe what we did mattered. I want to believe what we did will help the Afghans in the long run. But I’m realistic enough to realize it might not.
The only thing you can really do here is hope and pray. Hope that what you are doing will matter in the long run. Pray that God will keep you alive one day at a time.
It reminds me of something that one of the guys said right before he left. He was finishing up his year tour, and I was naively talking about hope and prayer when he looked at me, slowly, with the eyes of a man who had seen too many years of war and calmly said, “Don’t bother with hope and prayer here, God left this country long ago.”
"Grab your camera."
That was all he said to me as the medic walked toward the medical tent, and as I grabbed my dusty camera worn from a long day of shooting, all I heard was the whimpers of a little 3-year-old boy. As the special forces medic (who was also the team sniper) provided medical care to a young boy that was burned, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened. It was later that I found out it was his father who did it. “That’s how they punish their children.”
I just don’t understand this place.
I walked into a village where a small boy was following me around. Happy, smiling, looking at my camera. He asked through a translator "Who are you? What is your name?"