May 31, 2011, 3:54 p.m.
This is an excerpt from a letter I wrote during my deployment at Bagram Airfield in 2009.
It’s pretty amazing to see the devastation that we (the coalition forces) cause on the enemy. In fact, it’s pretty cool we can “puff up our chest” and strut because we are the world’s greatest military! We have multi-million dollar jets, an arsenal of weapons that would blow your mind (literally), and human weapons systems that are highly skilled killing machines (human weapons system = people). Every week in staff meeting, and even in casual conversation, we will talk about and see what bad guys we have killed this week or what ‘bad guy’ headquarters we have destroyed. And when the fighter pilots show videos from some of their mission from the previous week, we can’t help but holler out in victory! Seriously, it’s awesome. A total rush!!
But this week, I had a humbling and sober thought. As a support troop, I don’t get the privilege of actually engaging in battle (at least, not on purpose…I carry a weapon and know how to use it, but that’s not my job). My job is people. I am here as a case manager, ensuring our human weapons systems have the help and support they need after experiencing a trauma. I, along with other support troops, frequently feel under-appreciated and not valued by our brothers and sisters that do get to engage the enemy on a regular basis. We even envy that they get to use the skills we all have to defend, and even kill. But that’s when I remind myself, bombs and bullets aren’t going to win this war. Sounds like blasphemy coming from a military member, doesn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, bombs and bullets are amazing! And, I definitely want to make sure there are plenty around when I need ‘em. But in this war, bombs and bullets have a role. Getting the ‘bad guys’ is only a part of the mission here. We are here to win the hearts and minds of the people, and help them rebuild their country as a democracy. The local nationals here are watching us. They see how we treat not only them, but each other. We must take care of each other, respect each other, and support each other. It’s like when there are children around…they see everything you do, even when you think they aren’t looking or couldn’t possibly understand. And like that old saying, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” the same goes with the people around here. And while we continue to “rain down fire” when there are bad boys…and justifiably so, we will also continue our humanitarian efforts.
The next generation of Afghanis is watching and if we want to win and end this war, we must win over the children. It may be too late to save their fathers from the Taliban or insurgent influence. But, those children are watching how we treat our prisoners, how we treat them when they come to use for medical help, and even how we treat each other. They are watching. Bombs and bullets aren’t going to win this war. How we treat people will.