COP Graveyard, Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan:
Down in South Zhari things are going well. The COP is coming together nicely, and the Talibs are as scared of it as they should be. They learned after the last shindig to not screw with White Platoon. They have tried a few probes and have met with disaster. I have heard some of their commanders have scurried on back to Pakistan, tail firmly placed in between their legs. We tore down or blew up most of the places in which they could hide and, consequently, changed the game quite a bit. They can’t really sneak close enough. There are several awesome videos that will be included with the next video update, which, while we are on the topic, should be released around the time I go on leave. It will blow back your hair. It blew back mine. Literally.
I am pretty sick of having to write about my friends dying, but it must be spoken of. 1LT Dimitri Del Castillo died out east of us. His loss is pretty horrific to me. Dimitri was in Elvis Company, Fourth Regiment at West Point with me. He is the third member in or close to our company to have died in combat in the last six months. Daren Hidalgo died in February, John Runkle in May, and now Dimitri. We have also had a companymate severely wounded. Lost his legs from an IED strike. In memorial of the dead, we wear black bracelets with the names and dates of the fallen we were close to. I fear by the end of this deployment there wont be much space left on my arm to bear their names.
Dimitri was altogether an outstanding individual. I know his family well; both of ours are from the Houston area. In a way, every member of our company spent the last bit of adolescence growing up together. From eighteen to twenty-two, thirty men and women grew close and learned how to lead and fight together. Dimitri was no exception. He was a rugby player at school and a warrior on the field and off. His fiance, Katie, was a rare gem of women at the Academy. She is the kindest of individuals and never self-absorbed. We all spent our summers together training. Thanks to the adjutant’s random number generator, Katie and Daren ended up with our company for these summer events. The pain she is feeling right now over the loss of her love must be as blinding as it is unreal.
At school, we called him Del, and his family and mine went to the All Academy Ball in Houston all four years. There were also several of the balls that occurred at the Academy itself. I loved hanging out with his siblings and his parents. I hope to see them all again when I return so that I may offer my condolences in person. I don’t know why our company has had to suffer like it has, but if there is one thing I have learned there is no rhyme or reason to people getting tore up. It just happens. All I can really do now is make sure that my platoon kills as many Talibs as possible. Maximize our survival, minimize theirs.
Cavalrymen who die go to a place called Fiddlers Green. It is halfway down the trail to Hell in a shady meadow green, and the souls of all dead troopers are camped near a good old-time canteen (bar). Adam Hamilton and Amaru Aguilar are there now. I’m not sure where Dimitri, John, and Daren are because they were infantrymen, but hopefully they passed the columns of defeated Taliban on their way. I imagine the Talib ghosts with their heads down, come to reconcile with their cowardice and perfidy. We caught a guy the other day who shot at the COP. He dropped his rifle, picked up a shovel and tried to pretend he was a farmer; hidden behind the innocent. Their dishonor knows no bounds. It makes me want to believe there is an afterlife just to imagine these contemptible yellow-bellied bastards suffering in it sans the virgins.
Independence Day has come and gone. While most of America chilled by a barbeque, ice cold Coors heavy (the banquet beer) in hand, my platoon guarded the new COP. It was not without celebration though. I had the men gather as many forms of illumination we could find. Star clusters of varied colors, parachute flares, pen flares, anything that shot in the air and made a pretty color. As the sun set we posted up the American flag, right next to my Come and Take it flag. When it got dark, COP Shangri-La and all the other COPs around joined us in lighting up the night sky. My soldiers in the middle set off flares and shot off 40mm illumination rounds. Some 120mm mortars from a ways away light the night up as well. I can only imagine how this looked to the Taliban. They must have soiled themselves seeing every one of us foreign devils conjuring these streams of light in synchronous. It was pretty cool.
The flags we put up broke a rule sadly. I am sure once one of my leaders hear we put a flag up, probably from this forum, hell shall be had. It is currently against ISAF policy to fly US flags over our COPs because we do not want to be seen as occupiers and invaders. I would loved to have seen Lee turn to Stuart and say, no flags on this raid, we don’t want them Yanks thinking we are occupiers. If Nelson had ordered the Union Jack struck before Trafalgar, I am pretty sure it would have actually been illegal. Our colors should accompany us everywhere and fly proudly. Men used to die carrying those colors, charging into battle with nothing but the flagpole. I am of the opinion that regardless of our status as assisters instead of occupiers our colors should fly. It represents control an dominance of terrain. It says that we own this COP, and our enemies do not. I am not opposed to flying it with the Afghan flag, since our armies are allies and co-located, but nonetheless it should fly free. That flag has stood up against people tougher than the Taliban, and if it brings them out of the woodwork to futilely crash against my machine guns, grenade launchers, and mortars, as a wave crashes on the rocks, dissolving into mist then retreating, then I welcome it.
The heat of the summer out here is mind bending, even for a Texan. Regularly the temperature gets above 115 degrees, and it makes for some smoked soldiers by the end of the day. But they do it, and do it without complaint. Constantly proud of these men. With the heat came the grapes. They have gotten sizable enough to pick and eat or dry into raisins. We crushed a good sized grape field to make the new COP, and had to pay the farmer who owned it a pretty penny. He got more then I thought he deserved, but the amount we paid wasn’t my call. They are green grapes that are smaller than what I see in our grocery stores back home. Honestly they don’t even really taste that good, but perhaps they are not ripe enough yet. I am not a grape farmer, but I am, in the words of Ben Stiller, a lead farmer.
Mid-tour leave is coming up. Not too long till that ice cold Coors heavy (the banquet beer) is gripped in my hand, made slippery by the flowing waters of the Guadeloupe River. Also no one should be shooting at me; that will be nice. Once we permanently move, there might be a longer gap between updates. I know I have threatened that several times now, but the full move of all the gear will begin soon. I’m not sure when I can hit up the interweb again.
I’ll leave you with some lyrics from The Killers that have been in my head the last few days,
I took a shuttle on a shock wave ride, where people on the pen pulled the trigger for accolades.
I took a bullet and I looked inside and running through my veins an American masquerade.
I still remember Grandma Dixie’s wake.
I’d never really known anybody to die before Red, white, and blue upon a birthday cake, my brother he was born on the 4th of July.
Staying nine and a half hours ahead, HE heavy, and until next time faithful readers,
1LT Wm Treadway