Monday, May 28, 2012
SPC Aaron D. Fields - Guardian
It seemed a tad harsh, and I was curious why my eyebrows were the only ones that raised. Afterwards, a friend told me about the ambush, and it was instantly clear that the no-holds barred effort to get the men in line was fueled by what I have to imagine feels like a failure to look after soldiers when one is lost.
I was surprised, perhaps because to my surprise, the previous unit had finished their tour without losing anybody to the enemy and unconsciously I was thinking I would make through my year keeping the streak alive. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Though the "ramp ceremony" during which the fallen are flown home to their families had occured in my absence, but I was appreciative of being asked to a memorial service a few days later.
Appropriately, the unit that ended up giving me a lift to the ceremony was the one that I knew best, and I was glad to have an opportunity to spend some time with them, hoping to show solidarity, particularly since the soldier came from another part of their larger unit.
Never have I been more conscious of the fact that for all the armor and concrete that is part of daily life here, it is a shield of flesh and bone that really keeps me out of harms way, and which gives Afghans and Afghanistan a chance to break the cycle of violence that has ruined so many lives. Neither have I felt so keenly how inadequate my efforts to foster self-reliance and good governance must seem to soldiers who have lost a brother/sister in arms, and sensed how hurtful it must be when my "wisdom" on governance often amounts to doing nothing and watching the afghans either ignore or struggle with a problem that we feel we could easily "fix". I wanted somehow to convey that their sacrifice has given Afghanistan a opportunity, but whether and how they seize it is something only Afghans can decide. I can only hope that my presence and the comraderie we shared conveyed some of both my gratitude and my conviction that for all the mistakes and uncertainty of the whole endeavor, we are together in a worthwhile enterprise of defending basic human rights and dignity, and attempting to empower the afghan people to be their custodian.
The service itself was a touching mix of ceremony, stoicism, and personal sentiment. Tremendous care was taken in setting up the outdoor stage which served as the chapel. Flanked by the massive MRAPs that specialist Fields loved to drive, the precisely centered main display was the fallen soldier battle cross. A pair of boots, an M-16, helmet and dog tags. A photo stood to the side, an american flag and unit flags stood behind.