Monday, March 19, 2007
Afghan Soldiers & Cops Visit America
Following our escort of Brigadier General Mohammad of Afghanistan, several of us were asked to escort some of the Afghan police officers and soldiers to a local Walmart. I had already gotten to know several of these men and I was more than happy to help them spend a little time shopping in America.
Because our guests were making their first trips out of Afghanistan, they entered a world that was totally unfamiliar to all of them. As a result, one American soldier was assigned to each Afghan cop or soldier. In many ways they reminded me of children who were going to Disney World for the first time.
These men were fascinated with the wide variety of products as well as the different types of Americans and styles of dress. Coming from a world of constant need, they marveled at a world of plenty. It was difficult not to feel sorry for them, but I couldn’t help it.
My first escort was for a soldier in the Afghan National Army. His name was Ghulum Sakhi Jamshid. (See our photo above.) He spoke no English and we had to communicate by sign language. Unfortunately, he had spent much of the $100 or so that he was given for the trip and only had about $25 left. Walmart was kind enough to give the Afghans $10 gift certificates and he spent his on a flashlight and a bag of trail mix. He was a single man with no children, quiet, respectful and religious. Although we couldn’t communicate very well, we had a few laughs and I helped him select a decent flashlight. He spent the ride back to his barracks playing with the flashlight like a kid.
The second time we went to Walmart I escorted an officer of the Afghan National Police. His name was Wahidullah Kalimzai and he was married with two children. He saved most of the money he was given and apparently brought some more cash from relatives. Almost all of it was spent on things his family members would need. He bought moisturizer cream, shampoo, clothes and other things for the women in his extended family. He also purchased two toys for his kids. Like the Afghan soldier, he was a quiet man and although he probably didn’t have much back home, he bought nothing for himself. I was impressed by his selflessness.
Before we left Walmart, the Afghans took pictures of themselves in the aisles using the merchandise for their backgrounds. They wanted to be photographed with some of the clerks, a few of the shoppers, American kids and the soldiers who escorted them. Outside the store, several were photographed standing next to some of America’s expensive SUVs.
These men didn’t spend much time in the United States. They are now back in Afghanistan where they face the possibility of death each day. It is difficult to support their families on their small salaries, but they are proud of their jobs and very proud to be Afghans. They are stalwart, courageous and rugged – the only kind of men who can endure in such a savage land.
Each time I have the opportunity to meet average people from countries like Afghanistan or Iraq, I am more grateful than ever to be an American. We have been blessed in this country and we must not forget that there are those who have so much less.
SFC Chuck Grist