Private Security – II

Some people are born with talents and inclinations, they make their best contribution and are happy only if permitted to follow their dreams. Others adapt more easily to a variety of situations, they can shift from one activity to another and remain reasonably happy. Rob had no talents or dreams. As a child, he adapted to his family’s dysfunction. In school, he adapted to the academic and social pressures. In the army, he adapted to the discipline and the training. But when he arrived on the battlefield, he could not adapt to the death and destruction. He began to dream. He dreamed of peace: and he would never be happy without it, he knew.

Shortly after Rob’s departure from the States for Afghanistan, his father moved into a nursing home, leaving his mother alone in the old house with her birds, dogs, and cats. He talked to her on the phone when he could, which wasn’t often enough due to his involvement in special operations. When his unit first arrived at the forward operating base in Afghanistan, they had hot chow, a bed, showers, a PX, barbershop, and laundry. They even had contract vendors like Burger King, Green Bean Coffee, Popeye’s Fried Chicken. They had an AT&T call center, plus the Internet. But when his unit deployed on a mission with an interdiction team climbing over rugged terrain in the northeast mountains along the Afghanistan border with Pakistan, they had little more than the necessities brought in by helicopter, and that only periodically. It was a primitive and forbidding existence.

His strength and stamina were taxed almost to the breaking point, carrying heavy personal equipment and weapons up into towering mountains and down into steep valleys. He struggled with feelings of futility but he kept it to myself. Complaints were the last thing anyone wanted to hear out there. Everybody repeated the same mantra: “If we don’t fight them over here now, we’ll end up fighting them at home later.” As a good soldier, Rob could not, and would not, question his mission. And, as a thinking individual, he knew better than to open the floodgates of speculation under those conditions. The determined enemy used everything from rocket and mortar attacks, to sniper and small arms fire, to improvised explosive devises and land mines. And the enemy did not hesitate to kill innocent Afghan civilians who cooperated with US efforts to provide the local people with a taste of something better: like roads, schools, clinics, and medical care.

When high in the mountains one night, Rob looked up at the sky, out into the universe, and he felt an arousing, timeless presence, like the universe itself was watching him, calling to him. Not with words, but if he put it into words they would say: intelligent living matter is not easy to produce or maintain in this universe; when and where it occurs, it must be carefully nurtured to assure its survival and continuance into the future. Intelligent life on Earth may be the seed of intelligent life in the universe, he concluded, and his higher mission was to stop the killing, to create peace, to nurture life.

He respected the people of modern Afghanistan. He understood some of their history and diversity from a training course; but he understood them best from the look in their eyes and the expression on their face, from their proud yet humble existence. Take away the Taliban and the coalition forces, Rob mused, and the local people had a reasonable lifestyle, with timeless traditions. Whenever he entered an Afghan village sweeping for Taliban insurgents, he felt responsible before the universe for the authenticity of his own existence. Spiritual angst and philosophical anxiety affected him emotionally. He wanted to avoid violence: he held that thought in his consciousness, while projecting it outward onto the world around him. But it didn’t always work. Befriending the Americans was like a kiss of death for the villagers. The Taliban were sure to return as soon as the Americans moved on.

The struggle against Taliban insurgents seemed especially futile when the US trained Afghan army and police units proved incapable of carrying out their missions. Rob’s unit was ambushed one night as they approached a mountain village to be swept for insurgents. They were surprised to find Afghan militants with sophisticated communications and heavy weaponry awaiting their arrival and were quickly surrounded. Calls for help to the local Afghan army and police went unanswered. Rob hated to see that happen because the only remaining alternative was to call for an air strike and a lot of people were going to die that night: unnecessarily, in his opinion.

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