By Caleb Hayter Special at the Arizona Daily Star
Here is the author’s opinion and analysis:
On September 5, 2011, I left Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms with other members of my unit, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. Our destination was Sangin District in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. We wouldn’t be back for eight months.
Our mission was twofold. Our job was to keep the Afghan people safe from Taliban violence and to train them to eventually assume that security role.
During my time in Afghanistan, we worked with and depended on many Afghans, people who were just trying to live their lives in the shadow of poverty and war. They took risks to do so, knowing that they could be reported to the Taliban and suffer repercussions.
Each week we met with the elders from the local village to discuss the issues they were facing and to offer help where we could. We have spent countless hours training Afghan police and army soldiers, giving them the tools and the ability to defend their homeland against oppression.
We spent nights patrolling enclosures that someone kindly allowed us to use. I remember passing by a member of the Afghan Special Forces and hearing rumors that they had all tattooed their bodies with “Death to the Taliban”.
I remember seeing Afghans missing limbs and other body parts lost from IEDs the Taliban buried in their backyards and fields. We walked their streets, ate their food and slept under the same roofs. They just wanted a better life. And as our deployment eventually came to an end and we returned home, they had to continue to live with the danger in their country.