The Afghanistan war, through the eyes of a soldier's wife
To most people, the Afghanistan war conjures images of Taliban fighters and poppy fields. But the image I recall is my toddler son blowing video-chat kisses from home to his daddy and a governor in Afghanistan.
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I sat in front of the computer, with my squirmy son on my lap. On screen appeared my husband, the governor, and his interpreter, sitting in a row, all three smiling and waving at my little boy.Skip to next paragraph
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My husband's company recently helped to open a school in Shah Wali Kot. "If we can get people to donate supplies," he said last December, "the kids won't be standing on the street begging for candy from the soldiers."
After I collected what people generously donated, my father-in-law mailed the many boxes of supplies overseas, and today the children are in school. Other soldiers' family members also did the same.
"The district governor wants you to know," began the interpreter, "that because of those supplies, 200 children who are so very poor now have a school." He went on to explain, "Before your husband came here, the area was so dangerous. Now people are safer and happier."
He also joked about how much the governor and my husband talk to each other: "I just want to go to bed because it's late and they keep talking about how to make this place better." Smiling, he continued, "You know, they are good friends."
They looked at ease with each other; it was fascinating to see. At that moment, I was able to catch a glimpse of my husband's life in Afghanistan. It made me forget, just temporarily, how strenuous having a spouse away at war actually is. The long stretches of time between conversations, along with the worry, fear, and distance, take their toll.
While the deployment isn't over yet, and the unit has seen a lot of tragedy, these soldiers carry on each day and put one foot in front of the other.
In so doing, Shah Wali Kot is gradually building its governance, the area is getting safer, and the children are receiving an education.
I will never know all that my husband has witnessed overseas. But the image of the three of them on my computer screen is how I want to think of him there.
Meanwhile, the evening news often shows only the dark side of war. A roadside bomb or missile strike will always get more attention than quiet, yet far-reaching, acts of diplomacy and nation-building between US soldiers and Afghan civilians.
I witnessed the power of one such act of kindness on my computer screen that morning.
My son doesn't know about war yet. But one day he will study the Afghan war in school. When he does, I'll remind him of the morning he blew kisses to the district governor of Shah Wali Kot and his dad in uniform, next to him.