Point of Pride
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Monday, 08 March 2010 21:26

PRT Herat | Day 29 - Afghanistan is such a huge topic across the world, it's easy to forget the individual stories here. So many people are grouped together and called Romanians, Croatians, Dutch or Americans, I tend to forget sometimes there are individual people here with their own individual stories and beliefs.

Nazifa's story was particularly touching. To me, these stories highlight not only the caring nature of humanity, but the caring nature of nations. Visa processes are very difficult, I know because I'm trying to navigate the maze right now with my wife. So for a nation like Italy to allow Nazifa in for the medical treatment symbolizes something greater, something I believe hearkens to the soul of nations.

Somehow during my thoughts, I remembered talking with the Lithuanians at PRT Chagcharan. They told me how they asked their country to knit 500 caps for them to hand out to Afghan children during the winter. They were very proud to say their country not only knit 500,

but knit 5,000 caps. I remembered how proud they were to serve in Afghanistan and help bring peace to a country with a population eight times larger than their own.

Lithuania claimed its own independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and in a few years had a full army and were fighting for freedom in Kosovo. Lithuanians are conscripted into the Army, but they volunteer to serve in Afghanistan. I was told there's a long waiting list. It's a point of pride for their country to serve here, to help a fellow nation that has been so hurt by war

I wonder how many countries are proud of the fact their countries are in Afghanistan? War has seemed to become such a political hot topic in decades past they seem to have forgotten what they're doing in Afghanistan is genuinely good.

Are nations so heavily embroiled in politic, that what good happens here is forgotten? The Nazifa's, the schools being built, the progress, are they all overshadowed by the death, destruction, insecurity and violence? To me, I hope nations will hold onto these stories tightly as they hear of the deaths of their young men and women.

Today, we followed the Italian PRT as they attended a Women's Day Celebration in Herat. Never have I been surrounded by so many Afghan women. A lot had their faces unveiled and they were smiling and laughing. Have nations forgotten about their lives and the cultural richness they bring to the world?

I remember the Italian cap tain in Ken's vlog saying all humans are equal. No human is worth more than the next regardless of country, education level or social status. Have nations forgotten the peaceful people of Afghanistan? Are the pools of national will running so dry due to the onslaught of sensationalized news, we as a world forget the sacrifices made are for a great good?

I worried before 30 days ever started about how I would tell the Afghan story fairly and unbiased. I've felt that since most of what I write is about good, that I will lose credibility as an unbiased source of information, until I think back over our experiences and realize that we have covered this conflict accurately. This place is 90 percent hope and 10 percent horror.

I want to ask all of you a simple question, do you feel your nation is proud of their contributions in Afghanistan?

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Chris said:

I have to admit that I had no real idea what was going on in Afghanistan until a good friend was deployed. Sadly, it took that for me to start paying attention. I'm grateful that my eyes have been opened, but now that I am more informed I find myself frustrated by those who are just like I was. I want so badly for them to pay attention and understand the good and important work that is being done. I know I can't force anyone to learn more about it, but at least I feel like I can offer an informed opinion when the opportunity comes up. There are many, friends and family included, who will say the damndest things without having a clue what they're talking about. All I can do is encourage those around me to learn more. Thanks to both of you for this learning opportunity...it's been amazing! I'm glad our trip is being extended. It will be sad to see it come to an end!! smilies/sad.gif
March 11, 2010
Votes: +1

Evan Switzer said:

I think Dylan hit the nail on the head
I really think he got it right. Sadly Canadian media has done very little to cover anything positive with AFG. I am proud of our men and women over there, and I know a lot of other Canadians who are. I support our troops, and their mission. Anyone who does research into the mission, and who sees all the positive things we are doing cannot rationally be unproud of our troops. What you two are doing right now, is what has been needed for the last 8 years. I hope that you really started something in bringing to the forefront the reality of AFG, and not the 6 o'clock news version.
March 10, 2010
Votes: +3

Dylan Matheson said:

I do belive Canada is proud of our soldiers being in Afghanistan and fully support them, you walk onto a Canadian Forces Base on a Friday and everybody will be wearing red. Its just a shame that you don't hear the stories of success coming out of Afghanistan on CTV, all you hear about is the fighting, Canadian soldiers being killed or wounded, the videos of the fire fights and ramp cermonies of the flag draped caskets being loaded on board a C-130. But its stories like Nazifa's that everybody should be hearing. But at this point the only thing our media is reporting about Afghanistan are the torture allegations and how there was an attempt to cover it up
March 10, 2010
Votes: +4

Julie said:

My two cents
This could potentially open a flood gate of differing points of view, this is mine. Mine as it is from the perspective of having a very close friend that is currently serving over there at KAF.

I think the individual stories, such as the ones you and Ken bring us daily are very lost in the mainstream media and it's a shame. Here, we get articles on the war, on soldiers who have died and on civilians that have been killed. Once and a while you get something different for reporting but that too depends on which reporter is embedded where. Not all the stories get national exposure so those of us seeking anything good are REALLY searching.

Is our Country proud that we are serving over there, absolutely. Are the people that live in this Country proud that we are serving over there, some are, lots are not. I think it's partially due to politics and I think it also has to do with ignorance.

Because my friend is over there now, I spend a crazy amount of time reading everything I can get my hands on. So I consider myself informed and can offer an intelligent opinion, that is my choice to do. Lots don't, the only answer they give is bring them home and we shouldn't be involved and it's about the oil, etc, etc, etc. They don't take the time to see what a difference HAS been made over there and that is WHY we are there. They have not seen or heard any of the impact any of the RC's have had on a region, regardless of the Country spearheading the efforts. I can no longer read comments on newspapers because frankly they are rude and not understanding of any of this at all with the odd we support our troops in between and a rare someone trying to explain this to people who just don't care.

I think the other part of the frustration is that ISAF is a big group of countries that are involved. That is why I like the exposure the other countries get here, on the ISAF site, the NATO site, etc. But when you read or listen to the USA media it's like the only military there is American, the other 43 countries don't count at all.

You see this all over in comment sections. When the Canadians were actively involved at the beginning of Operation Moshtoruk, I was posting links like crazy and comments so we weren't being lost in the story.

ALL the soldiers, regardless of which country they serve are there for ISAF, for the continuing good work happening in Afghanistan and the great impact it is having on the people of Afghanistan. I don't think they get the recognition they deserve.

I don't think the Afghan people have the stories told that could make a bigger difference to the world beyond their borders. All we hear about is bombs, death, destruction and operations. There have been few if any feel good stories.
The world as a whole needs to know and see and have a better understanding of that 90% hope you are speaking of so they have a better knowledge of that 10% horror and that it really is 10%.
March 09, 2010
Votes: +6

EP said:

Another 30-Days
This has been AMAZING reporting, can you please do another 30-days?smilies/smiley.gif
March 09, 2010
Votes: +1

KT said:

Thanks for bringing this up. I am a journalist myself and often get upset over the fact that media tends to report only the death and destruction, rarely ever do they report the stories that make you feel good about our and others' presence in Afghanistan. I understand that war is violent, but I know that all of the men and women, regardless of country, who are deployed to Afghanistan are working to do good there.

I don't know if my nation (U.S.) is proud as a whole, but I know I am proud.
March 09, 2010
Votes: +1

Jurček said:

Some general and Slovenian perspectives
Hi, Nathan!

First I am going to answer on one of your questions mentioned in blog. "Are nations so heavily embroiled in politic, that what good happens here is forgotten?"
Yes. I think that is most common situation and from that point of view you get answers on other questions that you put in blog. I also agre with Daniel. We
generalize but let us try to be more specific. Individual stories are rarely mentioned in the news. Especially positive ones, negative are more often. So take a
look how ordinary people from the west are following the Afghan story. I think most of them dont really bother what is going there. AFG is far away and situation
there does not have a direct influence on us. Then they watch TV, see some news from there (IED attack, suicide bomber, etc.), think a few minutes about horrible
situation there and then as usual live on. Those who are more personally connected with the conflict, because they have their friends or relatives there, try to
get more informations and also their beloved ones served them day by day. Ok, we must be honest and say it is a very complex conflict with various aspects,
good and negative things happening there. I think that you, Nathan and Ken, are doing great job from that perspective, trying to represent the conflict or even
better people involved as a whole (fair, honest, unbiased, credible). I am going to write an article about your idea and project and propose something similar to
the Slovenian MoD, I will try even I am just an ordinary citizen.

The challlenge is how to persuade people to think about security matters and search informations about (for example foreign conflicts) so they can make, as realistic
as possible, a picture of what is happening there. It is a preliminary condition that one knows and understands some sphere and then put argumented critical
views (positve or negative ones). Most common sources of informations are news from TV, radio or internet news portals. So, generally things are discussed on
political (or strategical level) forgeting the every day impulse (or stories of people) on the ground. Some make fast conclusions saying USA or Westerns are occupiers
and new era colonizers. Why are smaller countries from ex Soviet Union or former Yugoslavia proud to be there? Not so far ago they had to resolve a conflict to became
independent countries and they are aware that without international support you cant reach the goals. For example Kurds or Palestinians still dont have their own
independent states. In Slovenia people dont support the involvement because of the distance, it is no problem that we are present in the Balkans, it is greater risk
there and contingent is relativelly small (69 soldiers and 2 civil CIMIC). So, people are questioning: "we are small so what can we do so far away. Nothing, it is
better to be at home and no one will die. We oppose supporting the war." Also wives of Slovenian soldiers organized action of collecting staff for children which were
donated to one of the mountain villages near Herat. A few days ago was here in Slovenia a radio broadcast about Slovenian involment in international operations and
missions, there was also a man who served in Herat as civil CIMIC and Afghan story put huge impression on him so he spoke in favour of Slovenian contribution.

About pride of contributing countries, I will divide it on the people deployed there (soldiers or civil CIMIC - commonly pride), civil society (divided and apathetic
until the conflict directly influence them) and politicians (divided, some are changing views to meet their interests in internal politics).
March 09, 2010
Votes: +1

Jan Stephan said:

I have to agree with Daniel. We never read anything positive in German media. That's why I really appreciate your tour and your blog!
March 09, 2010
Votes: +0

Alan Krutchkoff said:

Holy crow! Wonderful story! Fantastic! And she looks like an Italian model already! LOL Good things can happen anywhere. And it's so nice to see nice stories about AFG. Thanks! These people deserve it! Thanks!!!
March 09, 2010
Votes: +1

Carolyn said:

Very well said. As a Mom with a son in the Canadian military and in Kandahar I have really enjoyed seeing bits of the rest of Afghanistan. The difference in Kandadar in 2006 and in this years celebration of International Womens Day is the story of why we are there and you expressed it so well in this piece. I am going to miss you two.
A Mom
March 09, 2010
Votes: +2
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