Dec. 19 was my wife’s birthday. The evening before, I sent her a digital birthday card so she’d have it first thing in the morning, then I called her that morning to wish her a happy birthday and let her rest assured that I’d have a somewhat slow day in the office.
In reality, I was standing on the flightline at Camp Arena, Herat, and moments later was aboard a Spanish AS532 Super Puma buzzing in a four-ship formation over the hills of western Afghanistan, flying a combat patrol.
Had she known that while she blew out the candles on her cake, I guarantee the wish she made would be the same, but the overall atmosphere of the party would have been drastically different.
The ongoing multinational effort in the region is the heart of cargo and troop movement, training, medical evacuation and combat support. For a soldier in harm’s way or waiting for a much-needed resupply, those helicopters are a relished spectacle.
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Dec. 20 was my son’s birthday. Like my wife, I sent him a card the even-ing before so he could see it as soon as he woke up. However, when I tried to call, he was already at school. I again told my wife about an upcoming uneventful day.
In reality, I was again standing on the flightline ready to board an American UH-60 Blackhawk and head down to the troubled Bakwa district with Italian Army Brig. Gen. Marcello Bellacicco to discuss re-integration issues with village elders there.
An insurgent intimidation campaign causes the decline of security in Bakwa. Security must improve there, and the insurgents’ terrorization must give way to progress and re-integration.
On Christmas, I promised to call my family and wish them a Merry Christmas. However, when I arrived at work that morning, I discovered there was another plan for me. So, scurrying out the door with my body armor, rifle and camera gear strapped on, I once again headed to the flightline.
I quickly called my wife and told her to let the kids know that I had to do a couple of things on base here and would call in a couple of hours.
I fully intended to keep the promise but found myself boarding an American CH-47 Chinook and heading back to Bakwa.
Bakwa is one of the more volatile areas in RC-West, and the soldiers based there often engage insurgents in kinetic activities.
Unbeknownst to me, the International Security Assistance Force commander, U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, popped in to thank the Italian soldiers stationed in Bakwa.
“Soldiers here are doing wonderful work in tough places,” Petraeus said. “It’s a privilege for the other 48 ISAF countries to serve with the Italians.”
I don’t like the idea of lying to those I love, but I know that sometimes it’s a better alternative than them knowing the truth.
The truth is that as servicemembers, we must live paradoxical lives and sacrifice whatever is necessary now or it’ll surely be our own children here finishing this for us.
Though the thought of lying disturbs me, the thought of my daughters or son here is something I simply can’t live with.
Editor’s note: This is another in a series of columns by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace that we will feature on our Voices pages in the weeks ahead. Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace is a U.S. Air Force photo-journalist serving in Afghanistan. He was born in San Luis Obispo and attended Cuesta College.