Jeff's Afghan Diary: Celebrating My Son's Birthday
May 2, 2007
Today is my son’s birthday - he turned 16. I got a chance to call and talk to him for awhile.
Sometimes I regret not being home for big occasions, like 16th birthdays. Little things become big things later on in life.
I remember my own 16th birthday: I had a big party at my house, with lots of my friends. It was a great party, and I had a great time. My son didn’t have a party. My wife said he didn’t want one, but I feel badly that we didn’t give him a big party for this particular birthday, because it’s a milestone.
I realize there are many kids who don’t have parties, because their parents either can’t afford one, or even perhaps the parents don’t care. I see children every day who will likely never have a birthday party or celebrate their birthday - they don’t even know when it was, because there are no birth records. It doesn’t matter; every parent that loves their children wants their children to be happy, especially on special days like their birthday.
It was really good to talk to my son. We talked about school, about his classes, about perhaps going sailing when I get back home. Nothing deep, just a chance to talk. It was good to talk to him.
I got some mail today, including a care package from a group that sends stuff to us soldiers overseas. It’s great to see that kind of support - it’s really encouraging. In one of the packages, there were some hand-made cards from children, thanking us for our service. I immediately hung them on our wall. It’s wonderful to get a greeting from a child. Whenever we get cards, most of us usually write a thank-you note back. We hear that this is as encouraging for the children as their cards are to us. Getting a note from a soldier is special to them. I’m glad we can make that kind of impact!
We have been getting Polish soldiers here at Waza Khwa - we hear that over 200 of them will be put here, and will be running operations. It will get pretty crowded. I met a couple, and they didn’t speak English. Now I have to learn some Polish, along with Pashtun!
NATO has been taking a more active role in Afghanistan. It gives me hope that eventually this country will become more stable. It’s somewhat stable already, except in certain areas - just north of Waza Khwa, for instance, there has been a significant increase in roadside bomb attacks on US and government forces. One killed a number of Afghan soldiers who were traveling north. It was saddening to hear the news. A couple US vehicles have also been hit, but our armor has been preventing serious injuries to American soldiers, fortunately. But the HMMWWV’s were destroyed - over a million dollars of equipment, paid for by US taxpayers, lost.
Speaking of the costs of war, it’s alarming to see how much fuel we go through each day. Our vehicles are made for power, not fuel efficiency, and they go through a lot of diesel in the course of a week. Electrical generators at our FOBs also consume hundreds of gallons of fuel a week. I realize that wars are expensive, but I’m also keenly aware of how non-renewable these resources are. It’s another indication of how mankind’s inability to get along squanders what we have. Honestly, it makes me sad.
Waza Khwa has been without Internet access for over a month now - I have had to borrow a computer in the operations center to check e-mail, which I only do for short periods of time, infrequently. Other soldiers can’t even get this limited access. It really upsets me that there seems to be little concern about this - I hear people with higher rank than me say how it’s not important to the mission, because it’s only e-mail. Sometimes, the person making this comment has ready access to e-mail in an office somewhere, so they aren’t really going without. I know how much it means to those soldiers here with families back home. Some of the Active Army soldiers, who have been deployed before, have become used to not hearing from friends and family for long periods. In my opinion, a soldier’s morale is what keeps that soldier fighting. If the Internet helps the soldier stay committed to the fight, then we need it. It becomes mission-critical, to use an Army term.
We will likely be in Waza Khwa for some time, because our trucks are broke and need repairs. It looks like we will have to be part of the repair team, since there are not enough mechanics to do all the work there is to be done here. “Sgt Rock” and I will work on replacing a broken flywheel (a major task which involves digging between the engine and the transmission housing) and checking the fuel system, with assistance from whatever mechanic we can beg to help us. I’m not exactly a mechanic myself, but I’ve replaced water pumps, exhaust systems and alternators in the past, so I suppose I can help here, as well. We’ll just get pretty dirty, but then I’m getting pretty used to dirt over here!
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.