Rubicon is late this month… I had it all ready to be sent out, spell check was done, punctuation was as close to “Afghan Good” as I could make it. Things change.
Today March 5, 2011 Saied Wahed, whom you met last month, lost his battle and passed away, he was 23. This has been a crushing blow to myself and the team. Everyone knew him and the US forces thought he was a total star Always a smile in the morning.
I got a call on my cell phone he had become worse. It was my teams day off and 3 people descended on the hospital to make sure he got what he needed. The team scoured the institution in search of particular supplies, I could not be more grateful for their help on such short notice, giving their free time to go to work.
Later that evening we decided to go back up to the hospital. 7 of the US team returned, Officers and Enlisted. We sat at his bedside for almost 2 hours assuring that the staff knew how to manage his pain and care for him. I felt like this situation had been a total failure, Saied was dying. I was originally angered at the Afghan system of apathy, their lack of supplies, and unwillingness to follow through had caused this, and I couldn’t fix it. Then the strangest thing happened, Saied’s father spoke to me as we were preparing to leave. “You Americans amaze me. You treat every life as if it were special and valuable. I will always think of you as my Son.”
That night I learned a few valuable lessons about this country and this war.
It isn’t about money, power, fame of being the one who “fixed it”, or some desk jockey’s definition of success. Its about giving all you have, being emotionally vulnerable, and showing a deeply scarred people that they matter to you. You cant just say “we care”.
You must care until you feel their pain. It shows them that you believe they are worth more than the buried pain and scars, it’s right of passage for their trust.
My team began to exit the room and Saied father spoke up again to the nurses…
“I don’t care what any MD tells you to do. I will only let you do what Young says is good.”
The grief and love for a dying son is very powerful. Much like electricity powers the world and can cause great pain. Like money can be a gift and a curse, or steam as it can move the heaviest objects or burn and scar. The love may not move mountains, but will bring you kicking and screaming to the hill you will die on.
Only sharing ones soul with another can placate the need for the essential emotional human connection. The desire to have a safe place to be and feel loved there. Some will find dangerous and unhealthy vectors for this force, others will only peruse it due to fear. Those that do seek the journey must hold to cretin truths of talk/share/survive to find normalcy. My team is growing into a tight family unit despite the constant barrage of walls to progress that are placed in front of us.
In the end, as I hope you have seen too, Saied’s death is a terrible loss for Afghanistan. Some people defend freedom, some consume it, and others never care to taste it. Saied made a choice that freedom was essential to his country. He paid for this debt with his life in the end. He gave up his future for others.
Saied and I spoke about how I could never travel to his house because of the dangers outside the walls of my compound. One day though, our sons would sit at the same table and break bread, laugh and tell stories in a safer world because of what Saied did and believed in.
To my family and friends at home, I love you all and miss you very much. I work here for something greater in this world. Something that is so special we can only hope to touch just one. Tonight Saied and I fight for a more perfect human experience. The love for a country, love for a brother, and the love of a father to a son.
Jeremy and Saied
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal