For someone who watches cable news daily I would have assumed that I would know a lot more about the 10 year long war that my country has been engaging in with the terrorist organizations in Afghanistan. I know every line and insult being hurled back and forth between the current GOP presidential candidates. I know every campaign strategy and what every political analyst is saying about who is currently leading the field. I know what everyone on TV has been saying about candidate Gingrich’s infamous “open marriage” and Romney’s controversies over his personal taxes. But what do I know of this war? What do I know of the brave soldiers so committed to doing everything they can to help the civilians in Afghanistan? What do I know of the citizens being oppressed by the tyranny of a violent oligarchy? Apparently, I do not know much.
My eyes were opened to a whole world of information this past Monday when retired SMSgt. Rex Temple came to speak to my class. He was friendly and informal in his introduction and spent the first ten minutes of the class getting to know us and our fields of study. A projector displayed a photo of an American flag contrasted against the desert mountains of Afghanistan. With his wife Liisa Temple controlling the slide show, SMSgt. Temple told us several anecdotes of his time in Afghanistan.
We learned about the equipment used and the constant danger of being hit by an RPG. It amazed me how easily a vehicle this heavily armored could be ripped apart so quickly. What I think was more astounding was that despite suffering extensive damage the vehicles were most often repaired and not scrapped. Resourcefulness was clearly the way to survive in the war zone. The self-sufficiency learned by the soldiers to prepare them for just about any scenario was inspiring. I was appalled when it occurred to me that veterans, individuals with skills and abilities no civilian would ever have, have such despicably high rates of unemployment. Check out this article from The Washington Post about the current state of civilian unemployment among veterans.
Of all the things I learned in class this week, I was most captivated by the stories of the Afghan villagers. The people themselves did not strike me as being so different from the individuals I know in America. The children wanted to learn and they were just as excited about getting free stuff as anyone else. I was impressed by the graciousness of one child who tried to give SMSgt. Temple a lamb as a thank you for receiving a soccer ball. It appalled me that these villagers constantly have to live in fear of an small group of individuals that use violence to control.
The amount of ignorance I held with regards to the living conditions of the Afghan civilians and the American soldiers stationed there is very unfortunate. I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity I had to see how things really are in Afghanistan. What worries me as an American citizen is the lack of access I had to this information. As much as I like to stay informed about world events the American news media does next to nothing to facilitate a better understanding of the war effort in Afghanistan. The ignorance perpetuated by the lack of information made available by the American new media is a real problem. Please do what you can to spread knowledge and understanding among your friends and family. For more information go to Afghanistan My Last Tour.