I received the following from my uncle who is currently serving in Afghanistan
4 August 2006
Today is Friday, the Sabbath here in Afghanistan. Generally, unless we, the Coalition, have something pressing we try to take the morning off. So we will climb a mountain, go to the bazzar to see if we can out maneuver the local merchants, or just lay in bed and sleep until noon(not hard to do with the pace we work at during the week). Well, today I took a trip to the western edge of Kabul. I went with a group led by the local US Chaplains. We went to spend some time at a refugee camp – play with the kids, hand out some toys, and try to bring a little joy to their day.
This refugee camp has been in existence since the overthrow of the Taliban back in 2001. When the Taliban realized that Kabul (the capital of Afghanistan) was about to be taken from them by the Northern Alliance they went through one of the local villages (I’m sure there were others) and killed all of the soldier-age men and any women that happened to get in their way. Once Kabul was under the control of the new government, the new Army went through this village and realized what had happened. They loaded up all of the remaining people in the village-old men and women (the “Elders”), the children, and whatever young men and women happened to live through the Taliban slaughter-and brought them to a compound-the refugee camp I visited today. Now the “Elders”, older children, and the women raise these children, kind of like an orphanage. The government provides guards for the compound, food, water, and donated clothes.
Our instructions before we actually started to pick up the kids for the morning were as follows:
- Don’t give them ANYTHING but the toys from the Chaplains at the end of the morning, this includes bottled water, pens, pads, hats, toys, NOTHING-it makes the Elders angry because it causes fights amongst the kids.
- Don’t wander up the side of the hill next to the field we were playing in-the Afghan Army hasn’t had time to clear the landmines from the base of the hill up to the top-but don’t worry, the field has been cleared.
- Keep your weapons and ammunition on your person at all times, but no magazines (ammunition) in the weapons, it makes the Elders nervous because we could accidentally fire a round…or worse
The Chaplains broke the kids into groups of 15-25 kids by age group. I was in a group with a Navy Commander(06), an Air Force Sergeant, an Army Corporal, and myself-we got about 25 x 14-18 year old boys. We taught them to play Frisbee, ran relay races, and the Corporal even led us in some line dancing (yup, even me). Then the boys started to get a little restless so I gave my 9mm to the Corporal and I wrestled every one of them-one at a time. Then a 7 or 8 year old boy came over-I took him on. I let him take me to my back, he was pumping his fist in the air in victory. I was laughing so hard I could hardly move, all of the teenage boys were cheering for him. Then I grabbed him up in one arm and stood up and ran around in a circle with him-then we were all laughing so hard we could barely stand-never mind the fact that it was 95 degrees in the middle of the desert. For a little while, we were all able to forget where we were, why we were all there, and just have some fun.
Before we left we gave a toy to every child in the camp-probably about 200 or more of them total. Since our group was the oldest of the children, and they were boys we had to wait a little while to get our toys-last again:-) This was a time when we really got to just talk with the boys. One of the boys who wouldn’t wrestle with me during our “fun time” showed me the scars on his stomach-he had been bayoneted when he tried to protect a family member, (I couldn’t get a clear interpretation) when his village was overrun. He had 2 scars: 1 vertical scar about 18 inches long, and 1 straight stabbing mark. Both had been sewn up in a very crude manner, but he lived-now his stomach is weak and he can’t do anything real strenuous-he’s 14, he was stabbed when he was 9 years old. Another boy told me his nickname was “Rambo”, he could only say Rambo in English. Then while I was standing in a circle with a smaller group of boys they taught me to count to 5 in Dari-their language.
These boys, all of the kids for that matter, saw what happened to their parents. And while a few of them were a little distant, by and large they are just growing up being kids in spite of everything that is going on around them-amazing!
I went to this refugee camp to spread a little cheer and maybe help these kids a little. I left covered in sweat and sand and dirt,… and humbled. I know that all of the boys in our group had fun today, and we’ll likely never know the real impact we may have had on their lives-but I know the impact on mine-Today my life is better than it was yesterday. Today?…live it! Hug your kids, enjoy your friends, cherish your family, know that we are citizens of the greatest country in the world, and thank God that we do not have to fight these wars on our own soil.
Charles D Kirby