More than U.S.
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Friday, 26 February 2010 18:32

Camp Marmal | Day 19 – I worry sometimes that the world looks and sees only four nations involved in operations here, the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Afghanistan itself. This is one of the major reasons that Ken and I started this trip. The one thing we have learned so far is that there are so many other countries contributing as well.

No, the other countries aren’t contributing 75,000 troops towards security, but they are contributing as much as they can. Many of these little countries, like Bosnia and Herzegovinia, Croatia, and Georgia have a population of less than five million, yet they still find a way to support missions like the Balkans, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

The most touching aspect of their support here is how quickly they

have recovered from their own conflicts and now look to help other countries. Yes, there are other reasons that aren’t as touching, such as some wanting to join NATO, but on the ground, the men and women I’ve talked to wanted to come to Afghanistan for a personal reason, to help.

The stories I’ve heard bounce between absolute heart break and absolute astonishment. Today, I talked with a service member from Bosnia and Herzegovina. He told me how in the 1990’s his country was embroiled in war and 200,000 fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters died. He told me how he personally fought in B&H (as he calls it) for more than four years and how now, B&H has eight people helping in Afghanistan. Some of the people were on opposing sides during their war, but are now working together to better Afghanistan.

He told me how he lived in a U.N. protected city for two years before the Serbians came in and started killing. He talked of how he knows hunger, and what it’s like to not eat sugar or salt for months on end. How he ran for his life through the forests ducking and weaving as the Serbians were looking for all of the people leaving the city. He said the enemy stole and wore blue U.N. caps to coax people to come to them for help, and then massacred them. He said how his uncle was caught and imprisoned for six months and how over the course of the fighting many of his closest friends died in his arms. He said he knows war.

I will carry the memories he shared with me today for a very long time, and as soon as I’m back to civilization, I’m going to be doing a lot of reading about his country. I constantly ask myself as I learn more and more, why I didn’t know about these things happening before? Why didn’t I read further about what was happening in B&H back then, so that before today I knew the atrocities committed there? I’m ashamed of my ignorance in regard to the conflicts and strife that have afflicted the little countries that have allied with us to bring peace to Afghanistan.

B&H isn’t alone, many of the countries here fought for their independence, such as Lithuania and Croatia. Like Afghanistan, their wars were not just headlines and body counts. The wars are personal and the troops are deeply connected to them. They lost family, friends and comrades. Every troop I’ve encountered from these countries are fiercely patriotic about the flag they fight for, it’s inspirational and in some cases, cost many lives for them to be wearing them today.

A larger than life lesson I’ve been learning since I joined the military, is how big this world really is and how much happens. In my not too distant past, I was guilty of believing the U.S. military was the most professional, best trained and best equipped military in the entire world. I’ve learned that there are many militaries just as good as ours, just on a smaller scale. A lot of these smaller armies, have learned from experience, fighting not in distant lands and far away places, but fighting for the independence of their own countries from their own back yards. These are hardened soldiers who have sacrificed so much for their own country and now use that experience to help Afghanistan.

As Ken and I travel around Afghanistan, we will try to share the stories of these little countries, because while their footprint may not be as large as that of the United States, their contributions are just as important.

Ken wanted me to tell all of you that he would love to capture some of their stories on film, but unfortunately, some of the countries we’ve encountered have national caveats towards talking with the media. This basically means they need to ask permission from their government to talk with us, and for as quickly as we’re moving, it hasn’t been possible to gain those permissions in time. It’s a shame, because seeing them tell you their stories adds a depth of understanding, which is hard to capture through a blog.

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Comments (7)add comment

Nathan Gallahan said:

Alan,
You're 100 percent right! I wish we could have gotten into the city on Day 19. I'll work on the scenery shots!
 
February 28, 2010
Votes: +0

Mary Hinson said:

Alan,
You're 100 percent right! I wish we could have gotten into the city on Day 19. I'll work on the scenery shots!
 
February 28, 2010
Votes: +0

Alan Krutchkoff said:

More scenery
Hi guys, would love to see more scenery. That's the most interesting (to me). Of course the interviews are enlightening but thy are talking heads after all. The scenery rules in AFG. Let us see more of that. For instance, Day 19 was in Mazar-i-Sharif but we saw nothing of Mazar-i-Sharif. Thanks! Be safe and keep up the great work. You will have great memories when this is done!
Alan K
 
February 28, 2010
Votes: +0

Thanks_173rd_Airborne said:

More Than USA
Ken and Nate: Guys, you're doing such a great job telling the stories that scream to be heard.

For several years, I have been frustrated that most Americans don't know about the contribution made by our frienda and allies.Young men and women from so many countries have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm grateful to all who have served.Whether they come from Australia,New Zealand, UK,Germany,France or the smaller nations in Europe, they have served with distinction, and we need to remember that the Germans,Dutch, Canadians, and others were doing COIN in Afghanistan before we had that term in our vocabulary, and I hope that some people in Kabul have the intelligence to learn something from our allies.

If you have an opportunity, I hope you can talk with and interview some foreign nationals (not yet US citizens) who are proudly serving in the US military forces. I know we have some great soldiers from the former Warsaw Pact nations,British Commonwealth nations,South America, and other parts of the world. It would be great to hear their stories.

I can't believe that there are fewer than ten days left in your mission.Somehow, we must see to it that this mission continues in some form. We cannot allow this to just end.
 
February 28, 2010
Votes: +1

dennis said:

...
Yeah a well done piece.Here in the states we only focuses on are guys,and forget about others that are serving.Most mainstream media have there own agenda to follow. Here lately maybe no more than one minute is aired,if that.NBC at the winter games did a very short piece on Canadian Army. Sad.
 
February 27, 2010
Votes: +0

Kristin Swanton said:

...
Very good piece Nathan!! You are right that we forget (or never knew to begin with) who these other countries are that are helping to rebuild Afghanistan. 8 soldiers doesn't seem like very much, but I'm sure it helps. I'd be interested to know how so many countries work together, with language and cultural barriers. It seems like you and Ken have transitioned well within German, Canadian, Afghan, and now Bosnia and Herzegovina.
 
February 27, 2010
Votes: +0

Linda Carter said:

Seeing the picture of the troop from Bosnia-Heizegovinan on the tank.
When I saw the picture of the troop (on tank) from Bosnia-Herzegovina, my heart went out to him, as I could imagine all that he had already possibly experienced in his own war-torn country. Then I followed up the pictures with your blog, which validated that same sentiment--indeed young troops from that region had already experienced so many heartaches of war. I hope these troops get a chance to live a long life in peace and get to share with their children and grandchildren how much they have given and sacrificed to make their homeland and the homeland of Afghanistan a better and safer place--and overall, the world. Thank you for sharing their story. Your perspective is such a good one, in regard to the world being such a big place and so much constantly happening. For the good, bad, and ugly...thanks to your very profession (media production, journalism, photo journalism, and broadcasting) many of us around the world are afforded the opportunity to open up our world, knowledge, minds and hearts in a bigger way to more fully embrace our world--and hopefully embrace or understand the many hopes, fears, tragedies, accomplishments, successes, and dreams that affect other humans in our universe. So often it's easy to forget the humanness of all people... no matter where they are from--again, for the good, bad, ugly and sadly the evil. Thank you and so many others for the job you so passionately pursue!
 
February 27, 2010
Votes: +1

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