'A letter to you - the fallen'
Lt. Col. Jack Usrey, Special to the Press
Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011 8:01 pm
2001 – I saw you for the first time when I was seven and I was afraid of you. You came into my village with clothes and vehicles I had never seen. You were very big. You wore things that hung off your body that made me tremble – you looked like a monster walking down the street. I could not see your eyes – you did not look human.
I have three brothers and a mother and father. We live in a hut on the side of the valley between the river and the mountains. My father and brothers have not had a job since the Taliban took over our valley. We sometimes don’t have enough food to eat but most of the time we have water. My mother can read a little and tells me stories about how when she was my age she went to school and learned many things. The Taliban do not allow girls to go to school.
One night while I was asleep a loud explosion woke me up. You broke into our home and began fighting from our windows and our rooftop. I put my blanket over myself and cried until the sun rose and you left our home. I did not understand why you were there. I will remember that night for the rest of my life.
2004 – Tomorrow is my 10th birthday but it will not be a happy day. My older brother disappeared last week and we have not seen him since. I hear my mother crying each night; my father and brothers talk in hushed tones to keep me from knowing what is going on – I heard my father say that they took him. I know in my heart I will never see my brother again.
Yesterday I saw your eyes for the first time. You used to wear dark glasses and it made you look scary when you walked through the bazaar where my father sells vegetables. Now that I can see your eyes I realize that you have brown eyes like me and I also see the niceness in your heart by the way your eyes speak to me.
2007 – I’m 13 now and I am learning how to read. Shortly after you helped my village build a road that connects my village to another village in the valley, you brought a small group of females that dress like you during a visit. They began visiting us weekly with a lady from Kandahar who is teaching the girls in my neighborhood how to read and write. It is very exciting and I am learning about things I never knew. I am happier than I have ever been. I have my own writing tablet and pencils. I still have the very colorful backpack that you gave me last year.
2009 – My brothers have a job – they deliver produce grown in our valley to Kabul and other places. They are married now and live close to us. I have two little nieces and I can’t wait to play school with them and help them with their homework. I get to help at the school a few times a week after I finish cleaning our hut and gathering sticks to cook with.
2011 – I look back at things I remember from 10 years ago and I am amazed at then and now. We have electricity in our hut and my mother and I are allowed to meet with other women in our valley at the district center. We share ideas of ways to make our Province a better place. We have clean water and plenty of food to eat and I was able to travel to Kabul with my parents to visit family that I have never seen.
I saw you again today. The last time I saw you I was 14. You told me today that this was the third time you have been to my country. It used to be hard to understand why you left your family to come to my country but today you made me understand.
You said that you have a daughter that is the same size as I am and that we have the same color eyes. You told me that you see her when you see me and it makes you want to help me live in a safe neighborhood and get to go to school.
2014 – Tomorrow is my wedding day. My future husband works in the Afghanistan Uniformed Police and he is a good man. He is a smart, honest person and he honors my father in all that he does. We will live close to my father and mother and I will teach at the girls’ school in our valley.
2020 – My father is not well but he is a happy man. He is content and comfortable in his old age. He’s seen much in his years but hasn’t known peace like we see now. I am honored that my father lived long enough to see calm in our valley. He’s had such a hard life.
Our family is able to walk the streets of our village at night without fear – I never left our home at night when I was a little girl. My son and daughter will be able to go to school and then to the university if they choose to do so.
I can now dream of a day when my children and their children will have choices beyond my father’s imagination. I can dream of that day because you were willing to leave your family and come to my country to help me and my family. I know you paid for my children’s dreams dearly. I know you missed years of your children’s lives and I know you lost friends whose ultimate sacrifice paid the price for my dreams.
I will honor your gift to my family and your sacrifice by telling your story to my grandchildren and ask them to tell their grandchildren. I will wake up every morning and do something to make my family and my country better.
In honor of our fallen comrades – they give all hope.
Editor’s note: The preceding story was written by Martin native U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jack Usrey of Pegasus 1 in Operation Enduring Freedom shortly after the announcement regarding the servicemen who died in a helicopter crash over the weekend in Afghanistan. Usrey expressed he hoped the piece could bring comfort to the grieving nation and honor the fallen.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jack Usrey