Sticking Around inAfghanistan and Sergeant Nicholas Dickhut
I watched President Obama’s short speech from Kabul, Afghanistan yesterday evening and it made me sad. I was expecting good news, and when the president said he was going to tell us how we will complete the mission and end the war in Afghanistan, I got excited because this is what I’d been waiting for. I’ve been waiting for the time when all the soldiers overseas finally come home to their families and no longer have to risk their lives. I’ve been waiting for this news for over a decade and I sat up in anticipation but I didn’t really get too much. It seems that while almost all of our troops will be home by 2014, which is a good thing, it looks like a number of troops will still be in Afghanistan for another 10 years, until 2024, as part of the new Strategic Partnership Agreement acting as military trainers and conducting counter-terrorism operations. Maybe that’s necessary, there are smarter people than me deciding this stuff, but I just wanted to hear that all Americans would be home by the end of 2014.
The president said he recognizes that many Americans are tired of war and speaking for myself only, he’s right.
I’m really not optimistic about our future involvement in Afghanistan. There were stories yesterday of attacks against US and foreign troops by Afghan soldiers and police being underreported which me wonder how much we’re really wanted there and how far the Afghan soldiers can be trusted. Then, barely hours after the president said we’ve broken the Tabliban’s momentum, the Tabliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed seven and wounded 17 children on their way to school.
So, sadly, not good really good news from my perspective, and I guess I just think it’s going to continue to be more of the same for however long.
Here’s a local story about a soldier that bothered me. Sergeant Nicholas Dickhut phoned home this past Sunday to wish his nine-year-old brother a happy birthday. He couldn’t talk long, he explained, because he was set to leave on a mission. He never made it back from that mission and a couple of hours later, Dickhut’s parents are giving their younger son a birthday message he’ll never forget.
Nine years old and this is the birthday message he receives. It’s a crushing thought.
Nicholas Dickhut was 23. He was an adult and he knew what he wanted despite his youth. After injuring his knee during his first deployment in Afghanistan, rather than taking a medical discharge and coming home, he rehabbed his knee and requested a second deployment. He had recently e-mailed a counselor at his old high school to request a copy of his school transcript so he could register for online college classes to finish the credits he needed to earn his associate’s degree. He was a determined, motivated and patriotic man.
After a decade of similar stories, you sort of get used to hearing about soldiers who have died overseas, and this one was no different, but what got to me was when the local news station I was watching ran the story, they put the kid’s picture full size on the screen and I was shocked at how young he looked. He was a soldier, he was a man, he was 23, but he looked like a big 14-year-old kid. I don’t mean that as an insult to him, he just looked so darn young and I was thinking that this guy shouldn’t be dead. He should be thinking about girls, baseball and movies instead of war, guns and death. Hopefully he’s in a better place now.