Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Scent of Weakness

The Scent of Weakness

Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
25 March 2010

Dogs have been trained to carry bombs to attack enemies for decades.  The Soviets and others have used dogs as low-tech smart bombs.  Yet canine platoons likely would rebel if they caught scent they were being duped to die.

Today, more sophisticated people employ men (mostly) to deliver bombs in Afghanistan.  Gullible souls are selected, conditioned, trained and deployed.  Malleable minds are identified then loaded with psychic software that uses their minds to create a vision.  Evil persons of superior intellect identify the raw material—that raw material might be an engineer from a stable family—and trains them to fetch myths.

Suicide attackers have murdered countless thousands of people around the world.  They go by various names, such as Kamikaze, Black Tiger, and Martyr.

The attackers are not all men.  Some are Tigresses.  My friend Alex Perry met a wannabe Black Tigress in Sri Lanka.  She was 18.  Alex described the girl in Time Magazine:

“But asked when she hoped to achieve her dream of being a suicide bomber, she grinned, squirmed and buried her face in her arms. "She's already written her application," said her commander, Lt. Col. Dewarsara Banu, smiling at her charge's shyness. "But there's still no reply." "Why hasn't there been a reply?" whined Samandi, looking up with the one eye, her left, that survived a shot to the head and fiddling with the capsule of cyanide powder around her neck. "I want this. I want to be a Black Tiger. I want to blast myself for freedom."

How Sri Lanka's Rebels Build a Suicide Bomber.

Many people are persuaded by cult artifices into any sort of behavior, including ritual suicide and murder.  It’s crucial to understand that many suicide-murders are part of a religious ceremony.  The attack is the climax of the ceremony.  This is neither complicated, nor subtle.

Suicide murders are merely a small fraction of cult behaviors.  Cults often do not revolve around religions.  Communist cadres once fanned across the globe, teaching that capitalism must die on a global scale for communism to reach its imagined grandeur.  Yet even as communist countries have failed across the world, true believers intoned the conviction that “real communism” had never been tried, and if it were, it would fulfill its promises.  This “willing suspension of disbelief” demonstrates an important aspect often organic to cults: when cult prophecies are proven wrong, we might expect the cult to disintegrate in face of the evidence.  Yet instead of disintegrating, powerful cults often refortify, strengthen, and redouble recruitment.  Failure can cause them to grow.

Some cult leaders are true believers while others are true deceivers.  From the outside, cults often can be easy to spot, though the hardest cult to see is the one you are in.

We face an increasing number of suicide murders here in the “Muslim world”—in places where suicide attacks were previously unheard of.  Some people are coerced into suicide, such as the unfortunate women who were raped and defiled in Iraq, then shamed and coerced into suicide for the sake of  “honor.”  Or the case of a young Libyan, captured by soldiers from a unit I was with in Iraq.  The Libyan was thankful for his capture: Iraqis were trying to force him to wear a suicide bomb.

Others are “brainwashed” and reloaded with brainware whose program creates suicide murderers.

A few weeks ago, on the morning of March 1st, just close by Kandahar Airfield, a suicide murderer waited in ambush.  An American convoy from the 82nd Airborne was crossing the Tarnak River Bridge when the man detonated his car bomb, sending a heavily armored American MRAP off the bridge.  At 0735, the boom thundered across Kandahar Airfield.  I felt the explosion and turned around to look for a mushroom.  The sound was vigorous enough that I thought we may have been hit on base.  There it was: the orange mushroom cloud of dust gathered and could be seen floating away.  It was off base in the direction of Highway 4 to Kandahar.

American Soldier Ian Gelig and several Afghans were killed.  It’s difficult to know how many locals are killed and wounded in attacks; often they die later or are never taken to hospitals


Soldiers from 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat team were planning to conduct a mission that morning that required crossing the now badly damaged bridge.  Our mission was cancelled, as were many other missions for the next couple days.  In addition to killing Ian Gelig, the single attacker impacted the flow of the war in this crucial battle space.

Nearly two weeks later, on Saturday 13 March, I was preparing to go on another mission with 5/2 SBCT soldiers.  Shortly before our departure, just up the road in Kandahar City, a serious attack unfolded at night, including three or four suicide attackers.  About 35 people were killed and roughly another 50 wounded.  Again, our mission was cancelled because the roads were closed, though by morning we took helicopters and bypassed the incident.  Turns out, the enemy was disappointed with their attack.  About half the attacks apparently did not go off, while American and Afghan forces responded more quickly than the enemy had expected and limited the damage.  According to intelligence, the Taliban are extremely paranoid.  Taliban leadership suspected there had been an inside informant.  They planned to conduct a purge.  Meanwhile, I got one report from the ground that Afghans believed most of the casualties were caused by Afghan police who are said to have fired wildly during the attack.  One man told me that an Afghan position randomly fired his 12.7mm DsHK machine gun across the city.  (These guns are so large they can rip a man in two.)  Whether the allegation is true or false is not known by me, though it stands alone as a bullet in the information war.

Ground Sign

On 8 April 2006, I was driving with a friend from Lashkar Gah to Camp Bastion when shortly after we left the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) at Lash, a suicide attacker struck.  We escaped entirely, hearing about the attack later.  Some days later, we drove back to Lash.  On 13 April, a second suicide attack happened at the same place, shaking the building while I was writing a dispatch about how the war was going sour.

These were the first two suicide attacks in Lashkar Gah.

(A couple more suicide attackers were killed in that same close area in Lash while I was writing this dispatch in neighboring Kandahar.)

Lone Wolf suicide murders occur, but the context of these first two bombings in Lashkar Gah indicated that a system was in place, and the suicide bombers were not terribly expensive to buy.  If those suicide bombers were expensive or hard to come by, the commander likely would have saved them for special missions of high specific significance.  Yet the targets of the two attacks were small and tactical, of little specific significance.  Why would a commander waste “smart ammo” on tactical targets?   Perhaps the “price” of the ammo—whether through coercion or bribery—must be reasonable, and he can buy more.

One intelligence report indicates that a certain Mullah paid cash and wheat seed to the father of Shafiqullah Rahman and Mohammed Hashim who detonated suicide car bombs on 11 November and 19 November 2009.

Suicide attackers come in different “grades.”  Some are illiterate, unsophisticated people, unsuited for complex targeting.  A plotter could not expect to select an illiterate village boy from the hinterlands of Zabul Province to move to Florida, obtain a place to live and begin flight training to crash airplanes into buildings.

Just days before 9/11, in Afghanistan, attackers passed themselves off as international journalists and managed to kill Ahmad Shah Massoud.  A couple days later, on 9/11, hijackers attacked the United States.  The killers were polyglots who combined savvy with international experience to wage complex attacks, such as was seen in Mumbai, India.  Another sophisticated international suicide attack occurred in Afghanistan in December 2009, killing seven CIA agents.

More locally, within a short distance of this keyboard, suicide attackers who are spent on random convoys or “common targets” probably tend to be simple folk.  Many suicide attackers in Afghanistan are believed to be street children or young people from dirt-poor villages, for instance from Zabul Province.  Most are thought to be young, uneducated and impoverished.  These unfortunates are believed to be conditioned in madrassas in Pakistan, and in fact our intelligence people believe that there might be three madrassas in one particular town, where suicide bombers are conditioned and shipped straight into Kandahar Province.

IEDs are by far our biggest threat here, yet suicide attacks are also deadly while generating more press.  Also, IEDs generally only affect people who go where the IEDs are, while suicide murderers are known to hijack “random” airplanes far away from the perceived battlefield.  Most victims of the suicide murderers we face are other Muslims.  This was also true in Iraq where murderers would attack mosques or funeral processions, as an example.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, civilian casualties cause the people to turn against the side perpetrating the casualties.  This photo was taken after a suicide bombing in Mosul, Iraq, in May 2005.  The neighborhood had been pro-insurgent.  After this bomb in the midst of children, the neighborhood turned against the terrorists.  The little girl’s name was Farah.  She died shortly after this moment.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, civilian casualties cause the people to turn against the side perpetrating the casualties. This photo was taken after a suicide bombing in Mosul, Iraq, in May 2005. The neighborhood had been pro-insurgent. After this bomb in the midst of children, the neighborhood turned against the terrorists. The little girl’s name was Farah. She died shortly after this moment.

There was a time when Americans seemed to view suicide attacks as a sign of the complete conviction of the enemy, an immutable dedication to their cause that many people found terrifying and cause for soul-searching.  “What could we have done to provoke such anger?” Yet with time, American views of suicide attacks have matured and become more grounded.  Firstly, Americans in particular are far less afraid of suicide attackers and extremely unlikely to capitulate with anyone who attacks on American soil.  Suicide attackers hit American soil.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, they have become commonplace.  Secondly, most importantly, wild use of suicide attackers is seen not as evidence that we are attacking the “wrong people” whose dedication to their cause is unstoppable, but as concrete evidence that we are attacking the right people and that they should be destroyed.  Japanese Kamikaze attacks are ingrained in the psyche of generations of Americans born post-World War II.  Despite enemy demonstrations of absolute conviction, our military is today stationed peacefully in Japan.

Overuse of suicide attackers does not appear to cause Americans to cower, but to evoke Americans to want to kill the perpetrator.

Al Qaeda in Iraq was partially but significantly undone by overuse of suicide attackers.  The Taliban is marching down the same path, but top-tier Taliban are smarter than al Qaeda and are trying to avert backlash.

Savage behavior continues to turn people against the Taliban.  Realizing this, Mullah Omar and his Taliban issued a code of conduct in 2009: “Rules and Regulations for Mujahidin.”

Item 41:

Make sure you meet these 4 conditions in conducting suicide attacks:

A-Before he goes for the mission, he should be very educated in his mission.
B-Suicide attacks should be done always against high ranking people.
C-Try your best to avoid killing local people.
D-Unless they have special permission from higher authority, every suicide attack must be approved by higher authority.

In 2009, one report indicated there were 148 suicide bombings or attempts in Afghanistan.  Suicide murders continue to occur a short drive from here that are not meeting the above requirements.  Taliban continue to hit all manner of targets, and regularly slaughter non-combatant men, women and children.

Within a week subsequent to the publication of this dispatch, suicide murderers will likely kill innocent people here.  The Taliban’s efforts at repackaging themselves as kinder, gentler mass-murderers is failing.  Their suicide bombing campaign is backfiring.  The Taliban are losing their cool.  Something is in the air.  The enemy remains very deadly, yet the scent of their weakness is growing stronger while our people close the in.


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Canadian Parents thank U.S. Service M...

Canadian Parents thank U.S. Service Members for saving their Son
Whispers and Valentines

This short, heartfelt letter from a Canadian Mom and Dad is a must read.

Note: Will begin doing weekly interviews with Lars Larson starting this Monday.  Interviews will live on Mondays at 3:20PM Pacific; 6:20PM Eastern.

Lars also has a streaming capability for folks who cannot listen on the radio.

Very Respectfully,

Michael Yon

* * * * *

From Canada: A Thank You to U.S. Service Members

U.S. Air Force Nurse, Lucy Lehker, comforts an 'unknown' Canadian soldier after he was badly wounded in Afghanistan.

U.S. Air Force Nurse, Lucy Lehker, comforts an 'unknown' Canadian soldier after he was badly wounded in Afghanistan.

Dear Michael Yon,

Today we were sent your story of February 14, 2010. The “unknown” Canadian is our son Danny.  He is a 23-year-old soldier from Vancouver, Canada.

Your photographs were extraordinary and have impacted so many people here in Canada. There has been an outpouring of affection for the Americans who helped Danny in his moment of need.  For that, we thank you for recording these acts of kindness into history.

Danny's injuries were the result of an explosion on February 12, 2010. Four Canadian soldiers were injured and tragically one Canadian soldier was killed.  Within 20 minutes of the explosion, Danny was airlifted by helicopter to Kandahar.  Upon arrival he received emergency surgery that saved his life and prepared him for the flight to Bagram that you were on.

After landing in Bagram, Danny was again airlifted by a US transport aircraft to the US Army run Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.  There he underwent additional surgery that closed up his wounds.  Once stabilized, the Canadian government dispatched a Challenger jet to bring him home. This afternoon in Vancouver, the shrapnel that did all the damage to him was finally removed.  Danny is now recovering in hospital.

This was Danny's second tour of duty in Afghanistan and his platoon on this tour has had heavy causalities and injuries.  Physically, Danny will overcome his injuries. He also has the support of his family, his friends and his community to deal with the emotional side of this war.  Our hearts go out to those families who have had the loss of a soldier or who have had to deal with greater injuries.

Danny and his whole family are very grateful, and are actually overwhelmed, by the support he received while in US care. The Canadian military have also been wonderful.  It is our intention to personally thank everyone who worked so hard to save Danny's life. We have already made contact with Major Deborah "Lucy" Lehker to thank her.


Jim & Holly

Full Story:

Valentine's Day Weekend, Afghanistan


The War in Afghanistan has truly begun. This will be a long, difficult fight that is set to eclipse anything we’ve seen in Iraq. As 2010 unfolds, my 6th year of war coverage will unfold with it. There is relatively little interest in Afghanistan by comparison to previous interest in Iraq, and so reader interest is low. Afghanistan is serious, very deadly business. Like Iraq, however, it gets pushed around as a political brawling pit while the people fighting the war are mostly forgotten. The arguments at home seem more likely to revolve around a few words from the President than the ground realities of combat here. I can bring the ground realities, but can sustain the coverage only by the graciousness of readers. Please keep that in mind. Please click…

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Rock on, Canada...
nuff said...
Wes February 25, 2010

Danny and Thank You Letter
The "Thank You Letter" from Danny's parents brought tears to my eyes, just as the original story did. God Bless Danny and his family. God Bless all of our troops. 
Stay safe.
Arlene in CA February 25, 2010

Great story
Wow, you really outdid yourself with this one. What a wonderful human interest story. We do take care of each other in combat (UK forces helped me with my minor injuries in Iraq), but it's great to get the names dates times and places. I wish Danny's family -- and him most of all -- the best.
Jeff Smith February 25, 2010

Well done
Whatever squabbles may occur, when push comes to shove, Canada is family. Well done.
Dr. Kenneth Noisewater February 25, 2010

Ditto Thanks
Our son met Michael at FOB Cobra when there with the 278th out of Tennessee. Michael accompanied their convoy to Kandahar and joined their banquet provided by the Kurds in the countryside. His reports from that visit (although not showing a picture of our son) helped us immensely to understand the situation at the time. They were also visited by Charly Daniels and band, which lifted their spirits. Our son has gone through several surgeries related to combat and ambient conditions in that hot sandy country, and several of his mates continue to deal with ptds. I again thank you Michael. The reports are less frequent now (we are not on facebook or twitter) but are much looked forward to and appreciated. Our prayers continue for you, our soldiers, our command, and now for Danny and family.
Norm Hughes I February 25, 2010

What more can be said? What a letter. Glad to hear Danny and his family are doing alright. Thx Michael, and thanks to Jim and Holly for raising a son like Danny. Our prayers are with you during the time.
David February 25, 2010

We are all americans...
Whether you are north or south of that imaginary line; we are all Americans... Great to hear that the unknown is now known and is recovering well. in a similar theme, re: the olympics, i pull for canada as much as i do the us, because in the end, we are the same people, americans and i hope they feel the same.
Scott from TX February 25, 2010

I've followed this story with a lump in my throat and knew as a parent I would be so very grateful for the loving care administered by Major "Heartlight" Lehker and whole crew if my son had been the wounded individual. I originally sent the February 14 post by Mr. Yon out to others with the lyrics to "Heartlight" by Neil Diamond attached. They seemed so fitting; they are posted below. It seems appropriate that our attention is focused to Vancouver, BC and not just because of the Olympics held there at this time. Please continue to support Mr. Yon's valuable coverage as I do. 

Come back again 
I want you to stay next time 
'Cause sometimes the world ain't kind 
When people get lost like you and me 
I just made a friend 
A friend is someone you need 
But now that he had to go away 
I still feel the words that he might say 

Turn on your heartlight 
Let it shine whereever you go 
Let it make a happy glow 
For all the world to see 

Turn on your heartlight 
In the middle of a young boy's dream 
Don't wake me up too soon 
Gonna take a ride across the moon 
You and me 

He's lookin' for home 
'Cause everyone needs a place 
And home's the most excellent place of all 
And I'll be right here if you should call me 

Turn on your heartlight 
Let it shine whereever you go 
Let it make a happy glow 
For all the world to see 

Turn on your heartlight 
In the middle of a young boy's dream 
Don't wake me up too soon 
Gonna take a ride across the moon 
You and me 

Turn on your heartlight now 
Turn on your heartlight now 
Wendye in WA February 25, 2010

Thank you neighbors
Great letter and a great soldier. My thanks to all the Canadian soldiers and their families. We are lucky to have friends like you.
Joe Thomas February 25, 2010

Mailing address for that crew
Can you provide a surface mail address for that USAF Squadron . . . a lot of people want to say thnx
Tear in my eye February 25, 2010

Canadian soldier...
While I don't have children, this story nonetheless brought a lump to my throat and misty eyes. This is what we're supposed to do - Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You. It won't happen on this earth as a whole, but stories of human caring still do happen here and there demonstrating the love and compassion we can have for each other. Thanks Michael for being there and recording the neat and good side of history, too. 

Good to hear that Danny is doing well.
Dori February 25, 2010

Get this out...
Somehow, someway, this story needs to be pushed out to those for whom this war is merely a political football to be tossed around for political gain. This story should go hand and hand with that picture of the soldier holding that girl with head injuries. 

The fight against Jihadism needs to have a face put on it and this is one.
Timothy Paul Roesch February 25, 2010

Thank You, Canada !

What a lovely letter from Danny's Mom & Dad. But the thanks should really go in the other direction. Americans should thank Danny for his courage and willingness to serve and to his Mom & Dad for their love and support of Danny. No American or Canadian likes war, but sometimes our hand is forced and we must respond. Canada has proven a valued ally many times. As a Seattle suburbanite, my wife and I have traveled frequently to Vancouver and other parts of Canada, and have always met with warmth and good will from our Canadian neighbors. So to this American, this is just further compelling evidence that our good neighbor to the North abundantly harbors such quality people, and shares in our love of freedom. 

So, Thank you Danny. Thank you Jim & Holly. 
May our two countries always share such warm camaraderie and fundamental values. 

Mark S 
Bellevue, Wa
Mark S February 25, 2010

Compassion and Dignity
What a wonderful family. My prayers are with Danny, his family and his community as they help him on the road to heal. The medical teams from many nations do an exemplary job. They are dedicated to easing pain and suffering, and each day show dedication and compassion. They have no divisions when it comes to age, country of origin, or even politics. They are true servants of God, there to help the wounded, and assist those who are dying or have passed, go onto the other side with dignity and care. They continue to do so even though they often come under fire. The work through fear to bring compassion to others. They are heroes in my mind, but to them, they are simply doing their job. I write about this over on my blog, The Kitchen Dispatch. My husband is part of medical team.
Kanani February 25, 2010

Michael Yon is an award winning journalist and photographer who has not yet been fully recognized by his peers. But he will be I have no doubt. As for the story and picture, all I can say is WOW. It just highlights the fact that we all in this together, all branches of the U.S. military as well as our Canadian friends and neighbors.
Kenny Komodo February 25, 2010

Reward For A Job Well Done
Thank you Danny 
Thank you Michael 

O Canada! 
Our home and native land! 
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
Mike Gallagher February 25, 2010

I'am so thankfull to Michael and others who continue to keep us updated.I'm thankfull to GOD for bringing Danny to safety and my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.May GOD TOUCH AND HEAL and PROTECT ALWAYS. Thank you for your service and for being an honorable man and a great neighbor to the US.
Jean February 25, 2010

jim February 25, 2010

We keep doing it
Americans take care of the people who support and fight with us. It has been that way in every war, action, and engagement. 
We even take care of our adversaries and rebuild their countries. 
Wonder why we are so unappreciated? 
Great job Michael and all of our troops, American & Canadian.
Burke February 25, 2010

Many thanks to those who brought Dan home
Having known Dan for many years, and appreciating all he has done for the people of Afganistan, I would like to thank the American and Canadian military for bringing him home. It is comforting to know that our two nations go the extra mile to ensure our injured heroes recieve the best care possible under difficult conditions.
Stuart February 25, 2010

msg. usa. ret. (cavalry)
Mikey me lad; You have done it again! And again: ERNIE PLYE is looking down with pride! 
And to canada: thanks again for your help. allons! Gunner 
GUNNER WAGNER February 25, 2010

THANK YOU AMERICA for saving our Danny
Knowing Danny and his family quite well, news of his very serious injuries hit us hard. I served in the Canadian Forces Reserve for many years with the same Regiment that Danny belongs to. The close co-operation and comradeship between the Canadian and American Forces runs very deep on so many levels, more than most people realize. Knowing that he was in the best possible care at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany gave us the hope that he would come home safe, as he did this past weekend. 

THANK YOU AMERICA for saving our Danny.
Peter F., Surrey, BC Canada February 25, 2010

Thanks again...

Thank you again for bringing us to the front and relaying the information and the war as you see it. It is such wonderful news to hear this young soldier is going to pull through. As for all of the personnel responsible for extending this mans life from the pilots flying the medevacs to the incredibly talented medics, nurses and doctors who obviously worked tirelessly to ensure he would see his family again, BRAVO. It never ceases to amaze me this is often "a day in the life" of our American and Allied troopers. Thank you all for your amazing work and unending efforts. God Speed to Danny and his family and His peace and love to those families who have lost a family member to this war.
RWHannaway February 26, 2010

How touching and sad, but beautiful
My heart and prayers go out to Danny and his family! 

Thanks for sharing this story....There is a reason why we share the longest friendly border in the world with our northern friends! 

Annie Smith February 26, 2010

Get well soon Danny!
Again Mike Yon brings the true face of the Afghan war into our lives with stunning effect. His blog should be broadcast on National / Worldwide TV for sure. Danny and family, we are thinking of you, deepest thanks for your and your fellow Soldiers sacrifice. Have a speedy recovery brother in arms. Much respect. A Brit.
Chris R February 26, 2010

No surprises here
Having served in a joint US/Canada military effort (NORAD) in my early days I became very aware of the strength of the relationship that exists between our two strong nations and our men at arms. In spite of efforts of the liberal left to marginalize this unique relationship, this incident - where a young Canadian soldier is injured and receives support and treatment from the Americans as if he were one of their own - is a clear indication that this special relationship endures.
Jerry P February 26, 2010

NYPD, retired
As usual, the PEOPLE get it, no matter what stupid politicians do or say to try and divide us. Those who lay it on the line day in and day out know who they can count on, and it's damned sure not a President or Prime Minister. The people of the US thank our northern neighbors/cousins, as well as our UK cousins and other coalition members for their support. We weep at your losses as we do at ours.
Bruce February 26, 2010

Another touching moment brought to the people by Michael
Godspeed Danny boy !!! Lucy; Judging by the photo, I think your an Angel ! Thank You ! 

Rick Clarke February 26, 2010

Thank God for his recovery! 
And, God Bless the Canadians, the Brits, the Poles, the Danes and the Aussies!!! 
Ted Bryson February 27, 2010

Thanks for your service
God bless all our Canadian and American troops, brothers and sisters in arms. Come home safely. Thank you for fighting for Freedom.
Shirley February 27, 2010
I think that letter was just one more thank you to you Michael for your reporting style. Not many reporters can report like you from the human side. When I read your reports, it's almost like I know everyone in the article by the end. Thank you for keeping it real and thanks to everyone that wears the uniform fighting for freedom.
Rocky February 27, 2010

The Real Heroes
With the media and the world focusing on the 2010 Olympics we have become confused as to who are the real heroes. Men and women who risk their lives fighting for peace and freedom are the ones who belong on the podium. Words cannot express the gratitude and respect I have for the courageous undertaking our Canadian and Allied Forces perform around the world; you are the true heroes. To all the men and women serving in Afghanistan, and to all those who helped bring Danny home safely, thank you! A gold medal could never show enough appreciation for what you all have done!
Pat, Surrey, B.C. February 27, 2010

This photo says it all
God speed to Danny. Thank you Lucy. God bless all our troops fighting for freedom.
Chris Madden February 28, 2010

As always, this dispatch has been reprinted with permission from the author, Michael Yon.

Please support this mission by making a direct contribution. Without your support, the mission will end. Thank you for helping me tell the full story of the struggle for Iraq and Afghanistan.

To read more on Michael Yon, or more information regarding the military, please go to the Michael Yon Dispatches Gather Group

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Adam Ray

Adam Ray

18 February 2010

Kandahar, Afghanistan

On Feb. 9th, in a field near a road, an Afghan soldier squatted to relieve himself.  He picked the wrong spot. A bomb exploded, blowing off a leg, and he died.  Captain John Weatherly, Commander of Charlie Company of the 4-23 Infantry at FOB Price in Helmand Province, mentioned that in passing as he described the series of events that led to the death of Specialist – now Sergeant – Adam Ray, a vigorous 23 year old, born in Tampa, Florida.  The bomb the Afghan stumbled upon was near the IED that struck Adam.

Without the thousands of culverts underneath, the roads of Afghanistan would be 

flooded and washed away during the snow melts and rains.  In safe countries, drivers pay as little attention to culverts as we would to telephone poles.  As a practical matter they are invisible to us.

In the war zone that is Afghanistan, life and limb depend on noticing normally mundane things like culverts.  They are a favorite hiding spot for the Taliban to plant bombs intended to kill Americans driving the roads.  Hundreds, even thousands of pounds of explosives can be stuffed inside, launching our vehicles into the sky, flipping them over and over, sometimes killing all.  And so, in some areas, soldiers on missions must stop dozens of times to check culverts for explosives.  Since we do this every day in front of thousands of Afghans, they know our patterns.  In addition to planting bombs in culverts, they plant mines and other bombs near culverts, to get men who stop to check.

The U.S. military has been taking inventory of the culverts, identifying their exact locations, and documenting them with photos and maps.  The military has embarked on a program to place barriers on culverts over which our troops cross on any regular basis.  The enemy tries to remove or circumvent the barriers, and so night and day we have SKTs (Small Kill Teams) who move from place to place watching culverts.  The SKTs frequently call fire that kills men who come to place bombs.  When more enemy comes to collect the bodies, we kill them, too.  But the SKTs can’t be everywhere all the time, and so this wily adversary lands hard blows every day.

The main route west from Kandahar is Highway 1, the jugular for ground transport in Afghanistan, which also connects to major cities like Kabul.  Donor nations have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to construct and attempt to safeguard this crucial passageway.  Yet the enemy is always there, leaving convoys smoldering and bullet-riddled bodies slumped over steering wheels or crumpled on the road.

Between Kandahar and just east of FOB Tombstone most of the culverts have been blocked with obstacles such as concertina razor wire, yet ten remained open.

And so on Tuesday, 9 February 2010, Charlie Company from the 4th Battalion 23rd Infantry of the 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Fort Lewis, headed out to conduct “culvert denial.”  The Soldiers know the risks of approaching the culverts, yet they do it anyway.

Staff Sergeant Christine Jones from the 4th Combat Camera Squadron was along on the mission.  Company Commander Captain John Weatherly was away at a meeting when 3rd Platoon arrived west of Maiwand, just off the south side of Highway 1, near the village of Yakhchal, a Taliban stronghold.

The unreleased combat photos show that the morning was clear and bright.  Soldiers can be seen unwinding concertina wire at the mouth of one side of the culvert.  Specialist Adam Ray walks across the road to the other side of the culvert, down in the drainage area, and a photo catches dust in the air.  A flock of birds can be seen taking flight.  The meta-data on the image indicates it was 9:30 AM.  A white 4-door car sped away, over the culvert, and Sergeant Jones quickly snapped to get the plate.  Subsequent investigations indicated the car was not involved.  The soldiers’ discipline speaks for itself; nobody shot at it.

Adam Ray was among the three soldiers who had been wounded by the small explosion.  Captain Weatherly got the radio call and headed over, as did Army medevac helicopters.  Adam’s feet and legs were fine; the explosive was buried higher up, near the road at the side of the culvert.  He had been hit in the neck. The other two soldiers had arm wounds that were not severe.  Despite the danger of more bombs, the photos show soldiers and medics diving straight in to help.  Adam was patched and put onto a litter, and soon an Army helicopter with a red cross landed in the dust.  The wounded were loaded and flown to Camp Bastion where Adam Ray, the third of five children, beloved son of a minister and a devoted mother, a soccer player and a flirt, who tutored dyslexic kids and was known to ask less popular girls to dance at school events, died.  He was 23 years old.

The War in Afghanistan has truly begun. This will be a long, difficult fight that is set to eclipse anything we’ve seen in Iraq. As 2010 unfolds, my 6th year of war coverage will unfold with it. There is relatively little interest in Afghanistan by comparison to previous interest in Iraq, and so reader interest is low. Afghanistan is serious, very deadly business. Like Iraq, however, it gets pushed around as a political brawling pit while the people fighting the war are mostly forgotten. The arguments at home seem more likely to revolve around a few words from the President than the ground realities of combat here. I can bring the ground realities, but can sustain the coverage only by the graciousness of readers. Please keep that in mind. Please click…

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Honor and Pride
I am broken hearted for Adams family and their loss and also for the loss to the USA, these fine young men and women represent everthing that is best about America and the families that raise them.
Michael Adamson February 18, 2010

Thank you, and a question-
Thank you for telling this story. It illuminates just one tiny aspect of the fight, as well as honoring Sgt. Ray. 

A question- what was the Afghan soldier's name?
staghounds February 18, 2010

Answer for staghounds
His name was THE ENEMY. God bless the families of those who have given their lives and those who still serve.
Barbara Gibbs February 18, 2010

Never Forget
Thanks for keeping the cost of this war real and in the forefront of our minds...
Wes February 18, 2010
Thank you, Michael Yon, for treating this oft repeated situation with sensitivity.
Jim Boyd February 18, 2010

Another Marine mom
God be with Adams family and give them strength and peace, I know they would trade anything to hold their son once more. I get the DOD reports every day and reading about the day he gave his life he became all of them. My heart breaks for the price the free world pays to defeat this enemy. 
Susan Buedel February 18, 2010

Afhan soldier
The way I read the dispatch, the killed Afghan soldier was not the enemy, but rather THE ALLY. 

Thanks for the dispatch. It is priceless to be able to gain a specific understanding of what our soldiers are doing and what they go through every day. The stories of big engagements or crises are important also, but I think it is even more important for us back home to be able to visualize the day-to-day activities of our warfighters, and to realize that the war is on everyday for them.
mwfair February 18, 2010

Trackbacked / Linked
This article/post has been trackbacked and linked at The Thunder Run 

Adam Ray - By Michael Yon 
David M February 18, 2010

Greater love ....
Praying God will comfort Adam's family and comrades. Praying for the safety of all our brave troops - and you, too, Michael. Thank you for representing our warriors and telling their stories. God bless them, every one.
Kathy DiSanto February 18, 2010

for Barbara
With a comment like that you've never seen combat, you have ally's and you have enemy's, they can look and act the same, but thier belief's are different. The afgan soilder that was killed was a loss for America, he was not an enemy but a mission partner, someone just like you who want's a safe life for his family and freinds - if someone wanting to live a day without fear of gunshot and reprisal is killed fighting for thier freedoms, it is a loss for us, and he was not the enemy. 

Hoorah Adam - Godspeed
Trevor February 18, 2010

Thank you for telling it like it is. My prayers go out to all of the families involved.
Sherie Martin February 18, 2010

Charlie Company 4/23rd
I worked with the men of Charlie Company 4/23rd 40 years ago in Vietnam as a Scout Dog Handler. I am always saddened when I read of the death of one of our troops, but the death of Sgt. Adams a member of this fine unit that once watched my back I find particularly heartbreaking.
Steve Ball February 18, 2010

God Bless Adam.
Mary February 18, 2010

Grim Necessity
It is good to have someone like you in Afghanistan with the troops to send bulletins like this out. It is especially difficult for me to read because my son is in the Army in Afghanistan. I don't read as much about it as I read about Iraq - I don't need the reminders of how dangerous it is and how quickly my life could change from having a son in the Army to having a son in a grave. It is, however, essential that people in general are reminded that we are at war, and the war is against terror and terrorists; that those people, in general, want Americans and America dead. Sadly, Americans are war-weary and tired of hearing about it. Thank you for continuing to provide the message....just in case anyone reads.
Terry Frakes February 18, 2010

Ray Ray
Ray man, we had some pretty good times. You truely were a Prince. If everybody in this world had a little more Adam Ray in them, well I think that everyone that knew him knows that it would be a much better place. You were always down for anything, non judgemental and always had that look on your face. You never put yourself ahead of anyone else and never thought that you were better than them. Well guess what bro, you were. Adam Ray the Prince. You should start trying to get the story on JFK for me and try to loosen up that tight ass James Dean a little bit, I'm pretty sure you're chillin with him right now. Thanks for being who you were Adam, and standing up for the stuff that you did. It's just so weird that you're gone.
Kevin Mahoney February 18, 2010

Thank you Michael for all you do and GOD BLESS our men and women.Like I've said Thank You never seems to be enough.To Adam GOD BLESS you and rest in GOD'S LOVING ARMS my prayers and thoughts are with your family and I thank them too for the sacrifices they have made.
Jean February 18, 2010

That and I didn't know you played soccer MoFo. We could have been doing that instead of trying to play guitar when we had too much to drink. Next time kid.
Kevin Mahoney February 18, 2010

thank you for putting a name to our military in Afghanistan. So often the media never takes the time to honor our military and their williness to serve our country. May God be with the family of Adam Ray as they grieve the loss of their beloved son Adam. I thank you for your story here and just wish the American people would take the time to care more about our military.
jean kiger February 18, 2010

My admiration
After a regular day at work, I go home and relax in a comfortable home. These soldiers are at war 24/7 and can never let their guard down. May they receive our admiration, gratitude and prayers.
Armand February 18, 2010

My condolences to all families involved
Godspeed, indeed. 

And Barbara... you need to re-read the post. The Afghan killed was on patrol with our guys. Yes, there are cases of Afghan and Iraqi soldiers and police turning against us, but not all. As Trevor said, his death was a loss for America too.
AFSister February 18, 2010

RIP Adam and our Afghan Brother
God Bless the peace loving people of this world. We are so fortunate that people like Adam and our Afghan Brother are so brave and willing to fight for our freedom. God, please comfort their families, friends and comrades and continue to protect the troops that carry on. They are all in our thoughts and prayers, as we hope that one day soon this nightmare will be over.
Jenny February 18, 2010

Another HERO lost to us and welcomed in the arms of Angels
Thank you for the story. A very dear friend of mine from high school lost her son in combat in the Helmand Province on 26 Sep, 2009. The grief and the outpouring of love for this fine young man who was a Marine, a Warrior, a Son, a Brother and a Husband have changed my life forever. Rest in Peace Adam...and Jordan and all the other Brave Warriors who've gone before and those who shall no doubt follow. The world is a better place becasue of you and now you call Heaven home. May God be with your families as they adjust to your earthly absence.
Dan Nightingale February 18, 2010

Tampa has lost one of her sons
There is no joy in Tampa as we mourn the lost of a fine young man who died way too soon. Our hearts are broken. No more war. No more blood. Now more dead young people. But as long as there are those corwardly bastards willing to kill innocent women and children, we are grateful to the men and women who stand up and oppose them. de oppresso libre 
Warren Harris February 18, 2010

Semper Fi, Soldier
Lee February 18, 2010

Rest in Peace
Godspeed and Semper Fi Adam. Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.
TexMarine2254 February 18, 2010

to all that have served thank you and god be with you
travis/colorado February 18, 2010

Thank the Lord for these Brave young men and women, and the families who sacrifice so much. Prayers for Adam and his family. Prayers of thanks, Mr. Yon.
Sara Johnson February 18, 2010

God bless our fallen soldiers
I wish our enemies would read these posts to get a glimpse into what the real fabric of our country is all about. Thanks Michael for telling this story. My deepest sympathy to Adam's family and friends. I wish I had the honor to have known him personally. And to those who are reading, thank you for your service.
George February 18, 2010

Gold Star Mother
Today marks seven months since my only child died as a result of wounds sustained in southern Helmand Province. Here I sit reading another story that brings tears for my own loss and for the loss of another brave, young soldier. Reading the comments of those who knew Adam continues to validate the selflessness of our soldiers and the inspiration they shared with all who knew and loved them. I know first hand the effect my sons death has on his brothers in arms. It has been made clear to me that he will NEVER be forgotten and seven short months later, I have no doubts. I am forever grateful and indebted to those who are willing to fight for my freedoms everyday AND to Michael Yon who does the same to stand next to them and keep us informed. I pray and pray and pray for ALL of them to find they power they seek to accomplish the tasks at hand and for them to know that prayers are offered every minute by the masses for ALL of their protection and safety. 

"He which hath no stomach to this fight let him depart. But, we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers! For he, today, that sheds his blood with me, shall always be my brother." Wm Shakespeare 

Thank God for those willing to fight and heartfelt gratitude for those who lose their brothers (and sisters). They will not be forgotten.
Jill Stephenson February 18, 2010

My son is currently serving, training national soldiers with the skills to defend their own homes. I couldn't be more proud of his character, the kind that leads great young men and women who could chase any career they desire, to choose to fight for the freedom of those who can not defend themselves. We in the Army family STILL hear great news of Afghan and Iraqi families who know and appreciate the gift our warriors are giving them. Shame on the mainstream media for ignoring it. My prayers, and far too inadequate thanks, are with Adam's family.
Army Dad February 18, 2010

My heart goes out to the American forces in Afghanistan and the horrible conditions in which our soldiers must live and fight in to protect those in foreign countries who want oppose our forces. America needs to take the attitude to win this conflict and win it now using all of our powers rather than drag it on having anothe Vietnam in History our textbooks. Turn our Mariines lose, let them fight to win, give them the equipment, relax the rules of engagement and lets get this thing over with and bring our guys back home.
Sue Clayton February 18, 2010

God Bless you Adam. Thank you for painting a picture of who Adam was as a man and a soldier. Please, God, Bless all of our men in combat, especially in Afghanistan. Help the 4-23 every day they are in harms way. Bring them home safely, soon.
Diane McNally February 18, 2010

My heart goes out to the family of this brave young man. My sincere gratitude to him and those like him , who do not shirk from their duty to protect this country of ours. 
I too was in the Marines. My father was career Army, Ist Division Seargents Major back in the late 50's. I do understand and honor the service and commitment of such brave young men 
and women. My heartfelt thanks and deep respect to them all. When will America wake up to the threat from abroad to kill our country , its people and our way of life??? We are in this to the end, 
and the bad guys will keep coming until we show them once and for all we will never say die. we will never stop in our efforts to kill every last one of them. This will be a fight for our country's very survival 
as we know it. We all need to do our part to support our valiant soldiers , God bless them all !! We also need a Commander-In -Chief who truly understands his responsibility and aggressively pursues the bad guys , 
with no apology. That is his number 1 job. Thankyou to the writer of this article.
John Hollingsworth February 18, 2010

Dear Barbara...
...POUND SAND, lady! 

The Afghan Soldier was fighting for his country alongside American soldiers and gave his life for what he believed in. How dare you belittle his sacrafice! 

God's Speed, SPC Ray.
Matt Everhart February 18, 2010

God Bless you Adam
I read the story about Adam Ray, a true hero. May his Mother and Father find peace in God's love for their loss. You will see Adam him again.
Bob T - Colorado February 18, 2010

We are dimished
We are dimished with the passing of Adam and all the other brave warriors who put their lives in harm's way on our behalf. I dis not know Adam nor do I know most of the troops but as a veteran of 22 years of service, I fel te pain as another member joins the brotherhood of the fallen. Let us never forget the sacrifice they made. Rest in God my brother!
John Tyler February 18, 2010

And my heart goes out to you Jill for your loss. May God bless and keep you. 
Tom Crook February 18, 2010

Afghans Are Not the Enemy
For Barbara Gibbs and others, the Afghan soldier, a part of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) comprised of the Army, Police, and Border Police are not the enemies, they are in fact the mission. The reason that this young trooper was with the Afghan soldier is because he was partnering with them. Partnering U.S. and Afghan units builds respect and capability of these forces and there is no question why the Afghan Army is the most respected element in the ANSF. The more capable the ANSF becomes, through partnering, the sooner the ANSF can assume responsibility for their battle space, the more capable they become at separating the enemy from the people the better the government of Afghanistan becomes at providing services to it's people thus legitimizing itself in their eyes.
R. C. February 18, 2010

Barbara, please get a clue
Afghan soldiers are our allies in the fight against the Taliban.
Matt February 18, 2010

Ease up on Barbara
I'm sure Barbara started typing before her brain went in motion. I can't imagine she really meant what she wrote
Ewakahuna February 18, 2010

God Bless You Adam. And thank you Mike for this story, it reminds me every day of the bravery of our soldiers, and that my petty complaints are -- petty. Adam, you will not be forgotten.
Vicki February 18, 2010

We need to know.
At least some of us need to know with much more urgency, also. We need to know the story of some of our Afghan allies. As implied by the post asking the name of the Afghan soldier, he has a story and a family, he fought against the same enemy, and died for the same cause as Adam. We need to hear Adam's story, but we also need to hear the story of our Afghan allies, because otherwise too many are unaware that their freedom is worth fighting for, just like ours. Their lives are worth honoring, just like ours. Their sacrifices help make us safer, just like ours make them safer. Their story begs to be told, and their lives honored, just like ours.
John Findley February 18, 2010

May God our Father in Heaven be with everyone who calls on his name. I have heart felt sorrow for all the give their lives to make the world a better place. To all that have served and all that have served and all that will serve, I am proud of you and I am very proud of America......... God Speed........
Beauchamp February 18, 2010

A loss for all of us ...
When one of our children loses their life, a little in all of us dies. God bless the Ray Family in their loss and in their grief. God bless America as we continue into uncharted territory. Give our leaders, civilian and military, godly wisdom!
Paul Wilson February 18, 2010

Gone Home
Thank you Adam for your courage and sacrafice I know that you never be forgotten and that you can now rest safe and secure in Heaven and I pray that your loved ones will always be protected and cared for until you are reunited someday. 
God Bless You and all of the men and women who fight for freedom and justice. 
You will alwayse be remembered. 
John Thomas February 18, 2010

Sons of America
What a heartbreaking loss of an American son. I too have a young Marine the forth of five children who is yet to be tested. He is currently safe in America but I am sure to be shipped out at some point. As I read this moving tribute to young Adam Ray, he sounds like my son. I am moved to tears for his loss and the pain that his Mother is surely feeling. I know that it may be me some day. I hope and pray that it is not.
mom of five February 18, 2010

There is a constant in the number of Americans focused on the culture, and away from libertys' service. This hasn't always been true. This lack of appreciation became fashionable during the '60s, and has affected American life ever since. Our underappreciated military sacrifices, always given by a minority of Americans, lacks the proper attention of a self-indulgent press and the majority it serves. So few provide the magnificent blessing of liberty, for the benefit of the thankless mass. We must be a solice unto ourselves. Adam served, Adam died, Adam sacrificed. I saw it in Vietnam. (note the name 'wolfhound', of the 25th ID) What a sorry country in the ' underserving of such gifts. God has, and will continue to bless Adam, his family and friends, and all of those who willingly place the service of liberty above themselves. He understood completely that he was living a privilege, a privilege of service with the flower of his generation, and that all who refused be there with him, chosed to abandon service over comfort, and live off of the freedoms he provided. God bless those who possess such noble spirit..........
wolfhound February 18, 2010

Required Reading
Your dispatches, Michael, should be required reading for all. Bringing home the awfulness even of war in the defense of the nation is a necessity. We thank you, Michael. And thank you everlastingly to the troops and to the families who worry and sacrifice each day. Thank you! Thank you!
L. M. Calhoun February 18, 2010

FOB Tombstone, Helmand Prov, 2007
RIP Adam. Rest easy now, your job is done.
HOTCHOW February 18, 2010

So sickened by the senseless of this entire occupation
I feel so hopeless and heartbroken for these soldiers...their families. It tears apart so many people. What part of the trillions which were given to the DoD after 9-11 was spent directly on our troops and their families? Do any of you know? 

Suicides are now higher than those KIA. 

How do Americans turn the blind eye and ignore what is happening? 

Angie M Bishop February 18, 2010

From a former USMC
May you now RIP as your time here on earth was short, but your short life will never be forgotton. For a job well done so now go with your fellow soldiers and rest in peace.And God will watch over you untill we meet in heaven.
Norman Lamothe February 18, 2010

Sleep well Brother. It is a shame our CIC wants these Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen to obtain Health Insurance to cover their wounds. As he is quoted as saying, "They volunteered for this, so they knew there were risks, and they should help out. Sorry POS.
VNCorpsman February 18, 2010

medically retired USAF medic
Rest In Peace brother. Lord I beg you to comfort the families of the brave fallen. I'll see you on the other side. Your work is done. rest easy now troop.
OIFMEDIC447 February 18, 2010

medically retired USAF medic
Rest In Peace brother. Lord I beg you to comfort the families of the brave fallen. I'll see you on the other side. Your work is done. rest easy now troop.
OIFMEDIC447 February 18, 2010

Angie Bishop...get a clue
Yes, almost all of us proudly Support our Troops. It is not a blind support, we know and realize the sense of duty and patriotism these young men and women posess. If not for the courage and fortitude of our troops, where would our world be today? Better? I don't believe so! They will come home once the mission is complete, they know they have to stay and until that day comes they will fight with all their heart and might. They are there serving, not for some agenda, they are there for the man (or woman) standing beside them and they can do this because there is always someone there who has there back. Thank you Adam for you service and sacrifice and thank you to my son who I thank God for returning safely. God Bless our Troops and God Bless America!
soldier's Dad February 18, 2010

Thanks for the information. Our son, Army Chinook crew chief with the 4th CAB, is due to deploy to Afghanistan in the May '10 timeframe. We are concerned, of course. Your posts are always informative and sometimes heartbreaking, but I'd rather know the reality than assume anything otherwise. Thanks again. I'll keep reading. Oh, and the charge card $$ is coming your way.
Tom February 18, 2010

Classic reporting.
Mr. Yon's reporting style reminds me of classic war reporting from WWII. It is the kind of detailed, honest, unsentimental journalism, (without the anti-American slant that infiltrated reporting during the war in Viet Nam) that Bill Mauldin or Ernie Pyle would have been proud to produce.
Michael Miller 1259 February 18, 2010

9/11 Angie Bishop 9/11
Our troops are in that hostile environment fighting the Taliban because the Taliban gives aid and succor to the folks who slaughtered so many on Sept 11 in New York City. They help those who killed Americans and they are repressive to the extreme to their own people. If they did not have guns do you think anyone would pay attention to the Taliban? They are a relic from the past, but a dangerous one. They are mislead about the nature of the Divine and respect only force. If you were referring to their suicide bombers please be aware that in Palestine the only way they can now recruit suicide bombers is by thretening families or playing on the fears and fantasies of the mentally dimished or very young, ignorant people. There is not a person under the age of 40 years old who would not trade places with you to live in this country, the USA. Sure there is a lot wrong with the USA but for some reason no other nation has so many people who want to live within its borders..
Brian February 18, 2010

Tragically heroic
My sincere condolences to his family and to his fellow countrymen. American military servicemen are good, decent and great people. Every loss is tragic.
Kash February 18, 2010

Thankyou Adam
Adam I trust that you are with the Lord now and He has said "Well done" What an incredibly brave soul! You sounded like an amazing man while you were here on earth. My prayers are with your family now, that they would find some peace and comfort knowing they will see you again one day. Lord hold them close to You and give them peace like only You can.
Traci Wilberger February 18, 2010

Thanks, Adam
Thank you for your service. Rest in peace now, and God bless you.
spratico February 18, 2010

Tomahawk Veteran
As Tomahawk Veteran of the 4-23rd Battalion in Alaska & a Vietnam Veteran as well. 
May Sgt. Ray RIP 

Our Tomahawks veterans group have sent a wreath and have men who will attend both the memorial service at Ft. Lewis and the funeral in his home state.
Lem February 18, 2010

Do Not Stand At My Grave
Do Not Stand At My Grave 

Do not stand at my grave and weep, 
I am not there, I do not sleep. 
I am a thousand winds that blow, 
I am the diamond glint on snow. 
I am the sunlight on ripened grain, 
I am the gentle autumn rain. 
When you wake in the morning hush; 
I am the swift uplifting rush 
Of quiet birds in circling flight. 
I am the soft starlight at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry. 
I am not there, I did not die. 

Deeply Saddened February 18, 2010

I am keeping this soldier's family in my prayers, along with the troops that are fighting for us. Thank you troops and May God always be with you and protect you. You are in my prayers daily!
Lillie M. Shoptaw February 18, 2010

I enjoyed having you as one of my soldiers at Madigan Hospital when you were a 68G (Patient Admin), you always asked me how it was when I was Infantry, and I told you how it was, you still wanted to reclass to Infantry, and I told you to becarefull at Fort Benning, since I know a lot of Drill Sergeants there. Then I stopped off at Fort Benning to visit one of my buddies and then saw you when you were going through AIT for 11B, I asked you there if you still wanted to be Infantry or go back to the hospital were you work indoors, dont have to worry about the rain or being cold outside... You replied back saying "Yes SGT Weinle, I still want to be Infantry" .. 
You know what brother, Stand At Ease, Relax and take the heavy load off, the Mission is Complete for you, Thank You for Your service and Sacrifice to the US. Rest In Peace inside the Gates Of Heaven for You Have Done Your Time In Hell My Brother, YOU WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN. We all will link back up with you in the future. Take care of all of our other brothers and sisters that will be showing up at the Gates of Heaven, show them around and just wait for the rest of us to show up...
SGT Weinle February 18, 2010

This is great reporting
I repeat what many have said before, but thanks for your very sensitive writing about this war that appears almost forgotten here in the US. Michael has real talent and he reminds me of the best dispatches from WWII by Ernie Pyle. If interested in reading about WWII with this level of sensitivity check out: 

His pieces on N. Africa, D Day and the death of the captain in Italy are real classics. 
syvanen February 18, 2010

We sacrifice for freedom
So many will go and sacrifice and those in this lost land, that remain will be better for it and the country they sacrifice for will not know what they have given, but we that have served before know and will remember. God Bless them, they are our youth and our future lost to protect others who will never know..and don't have a clue to the world around them....PH
Phil Hoza February 18, 2010

Adam, Ray ray
Dear Adam, I have relived our time together over and over again with alternate endings, very much different to the one you encounter. I always admired your love for the Army, because you were born with it, I learned it along the way. I remember those long nights at the hospital and the training for our so called upcoming deployment, and our happiness when we both got accepted to school, and the double cheese stackers with bacon for breakfast, the pizza, the sunflower seeds, the long days playing my version of scrabble, all the cokes, and the strawberry smooties, and the mango smoothies, the french fries at midnight, teh movies, the james dean stuff, the different color tapes we dealt with fro mthe other shifts, your stories, your 21st b-day story in particular, how much you love your family, and your easy going spirit. i will forever miss you, u have left an emptiness in my soul that i cannot explain. thanks for everything we lived together, thanks for the lessons learned, i will not let you down. i promise. SGT Pin. see you later, hugs my dear ray ray.
Adriana M. Pin February 19, 2010

So sickened by the senseless of this entire occupation
I Fear that now the casualties are many and often, and that the conflict has been so prolonged, we are in danger of forgetting the point of why we are in Afganistan. 

Whether or not you agree with the motives for going in, we are now committed. It is no supprise that domestic security in Afganistan is at present ropey at best, despite the best efforts of the coalition. what may not be fully understood is that Pakistan is also at threat from domestic Terrorism, in fact it is well known that there are large sections of eastern Pakistan where the Taliban can move freely and with impunity. 

Why is that of concern to us you may ask? well the madrassa's of the eastern border region are known to be a breeding ground for islamic extremeism, where young muslims are radicalised. Currently, those Talib's and islamic fundamentalists has us to fight. if we were to leave now, the government of pakistan which has proved itself to be a great ally would be unstablised, the fundamentalists now without the western devil to fight would no doubt settle old scores which may in turn destablise the country possibly followed by the rest of the region. 

What we must not forget is that Pakistan is a nuclear state. And the only thing worse that is worse than islamic fundamentalist terrorists is an islamic fundamentalist terrorists with a nuclear arsenal. 

I have myself lost friends and former colleagues, in fact you may have read Michaels stories of Oz Smidt and Rainbow team in his previous dispatches, and of Oz's ultimate sacrifice. But despite the losses, I believe we must see the mission to the end, for the alternative is inconceivable. 

Mark R (Ex British Army Bomb Disposal) February 19, 2010

Gone But Never Forgotten
Adam will never be forgotten.
Cpl. Beddoe February 19, 2010

this says it all about his character
"was known to ask less popular girls to dance at school events"
pbordes February 19, 2010

God bless you Adam and your loved ones. I'm so greatful for your courage and your sacrifice. You died so that the rest of us could live free and most Americans can keep taking our great country and what you gave us for granted. There are but a few that are willing to fight for freedom while most want to enjoy it, talk trash about our country but would never defend it much less fight for it. Thank you and rest in peace!
Rod Rodriguez February 20, 2010

Prayers Sustained
For you and all our warriors, continued prayers!
Virginia Gentleman February 20, 2010

Do Not Stand At My Grave
The poem attributed above to "Anonymous" was actually written in 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Frye. 
jic February 20, 2010

Adam, you were truly a man of God. I can't thank you enough for your sacrifice. For me personally, you put a face to the war and made everything that I've heard since I was a kid a reality. You woke me up to something that needs to change. My heart breaks for all the families who have lost loved ones. Your family especially. They are wonderful people and I know you know how much they love you. You are a hero. It was said over and over again at your funeral today, but it can't be said enough. You were, and are, and always will be so loved by your family and friends and by all the people who's lives you touched without even knowing them. Thank you Adam, for being who you were. 

And thank you to Mr. Yon for writing this and for honoring Adam as the brave soldier he was. God bless you.
Meg M. February 20, 2010

My dearest Adam... I am a better person having known you. You were an amazing person and a wonderful friend. You truly lived life to the fullest. Even before your untimely death, you taught me that life is short and how to live with no regrets. You never let an opportunity or experience pass you by. If you had the chance to do something that no one else would do, you would take it. Mundane concerns, such as "can I really do this?", "am I capable?", "will I get in trouble?" always went way over your head. As for if you could do something or if you were capable- the answer was always YES! And as for getting in trouble- well, sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission. I am almost ten years older than you are, but this is a lesson that I learned from you. Your funeral yesterday pained me to my soul. Your family's grief and sense of loss was almost unbearable to watch. I pray that the Lord will offer them comfort in this time of sorrow and I pray that, they will have some comfort knowing that their son touched so many people's lives. So, here's to you, SGT Ray, to a life filled with no regrets, for always rooting for the underdog, and for making the ultimate sacrifice. You are truly a hero, both in life and in death... You will never be forgotten...
Stephanie February 21, 2010

Prayers are with Adam and his family
I know the pain is terrible to lose Adam, but he died for all of us. We appreciate and love him for his sacrifice. He joins the hundreds of thousands who have gone before in making the ultimate sacrifice that makes this beautiful country possible. With love in our hearts.
sam February 21, 2010

To Honor Adam and His Family
Twenty-three is so young, too young to be leaving us. But in that short amount of time, he has lived a life of great purpose and meaning that few others will ever be able to lay claim to. You did a good job Mom and Dad. I pray that the Lord will comfort you now and through the years. I cannot imagine the unbearable sorrow. I did not know Adam, but I feel the pain of that loss. May God bless you.
stryker guy's mom February 21, 2010

I didn't know you, but I shall not forget your sacrifice. Rest in Peace, may your family and friends find comfort in your memories. 

Thank you for writing about this brave Soldier, Michael. Prayers out for your safety.
Lorene February 21, 2010

RIP Adam Ray
Sincere condolences to the Ray Family....... 
Another young man cut down in the prime of his life. 

Rest In Peace Adam.
bsmarrt February 21, 2010

As always, this dispatch has been reprinted with permission from the author, Michael Yon.

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