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Posts Tagged ‘soldier’

Photo: U.S. Army.
An Afghan interpreter assists U.S. military personnel trying to locate Taliban weapons.

On Memorial Day, as we honor the men and women of our military, I am thinking in particular of those whose lives have been lost fighting in Afghanistan. Today, many who are leaving that troubled country have a justifiable concern about what will happen to their interpreters and friends when the Taliban reassert control.

I am not one to say we should stay there, but I have learned from Shagufa just how bad things are likely to get, and I wanted to know what our soldiers thought.

Ken Olson writes at Legion.org, “Gerald Keen’s Afghan interpreter is running out of time. One relative was assassinated by the Taliban a month ago. Another was killed by an IED last Sunday. Both also worked as translators for U.S and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

“ ‘It’s like he has a bounty on his head,’ Keen says of the Afghan national he worked closely with during his 2016 deployment. ‘The Taliban has no remorse.’ …

“There are more than 17,000 interpreters and their families mired in the same bureaucratic quagmire of the U.S. Special Immigration Visa application process. Their peril is exponentially greater now that the United States has announced it will withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan. …  

“It’s a haunting reminder of the situation faced by the Montagnards who risked their lives and their families’ lives to support U.S. operations in the Vietnam War. The American Legion has asked the president and Congress through a 2018 National Security Commission resolution to recognize the crucial contribution Afghan and Iraqi interpreters have made and ensure they are able to come to the United States. ‘Our wartime allies saved countless American lives and directly contributed to every level of tactical, operational and strategic success during the mission is Iraq and Afghanistan,’ according to Resolution No. 16, passed by Legion’s National Executive Committee in October 2018.

“The International Refugee Assistance Project also called for the mass evacuation of Afghans at risk to Guam or another location while they slog through the lengthy visa process, much like what was done for Iraqi Kurds as part of Operation Pacific Haven in 1996. …

“The Special Immigrant Visa program most Afghan nationals are using was established in 2009 when Congress created the Afghan Allies Protection Act, says Julie Kornfeld, an attorney with the International Refugee Assistance Project who represents several Afghan interpreters. The statute calls for visa applications to be processed in nine months. The reality is far worse. Kornfeld has clients who have been waiting as long as 10 years.

“ ‘The U.S. mission in Afghanistan recruited Afghan nationals with a promise of safety, but we’ve made it bureaucratically impossible for them to access safety,’ she says. ‘It sends a message to them that we aren’t fulfilling our promise to protect them.’ …

“ ‘It’s very frustrating,’ Keen adds. ‘We couldn’t have made it through this without these interpreters.’ ”   

So today, as we honor military personnel who have died serving in wars at the behest of a series of presidents, let’s spare a thought for those who are in danger because they helped us, and let’s support any elected representatives who may be trying to rescue those people.

More here.

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There’s nothing like concentrating on something completely “other” to calm one down. Here, at the tension-filled demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, soldiers take a break to concentrate on ballet.

Kim Hong-Ji reports at Reuters the Wider Picture,”The 15 male ballet students groaned as they strained to do the splits and laughed with relief after their teacher counted to five and let them relax.

“Once a week, a group of South Korean soldiers near the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean peninsula trade army boots for ballet shoes in a class intended to ease the stress of guarding the world’s most heavily fortified border.

” ‘There’s a lot of tension here since we live in the unit on the front line, which makes me feel insecure at times,’ said Kim Joo-hyeok, a 23-year-old sergeant doing his nearly two years of military service that is mandatory for South Korean men.

” ‘But through ballet, I am able to stay calm and find balance as well as build friendships with my fellow soldiers,’ said Kim, who is learning ballet for a second year and plans to continue when he is discharged from the army. …

” ‘Being in the army itself can be difficult, so I wasn’t sure what kind of help I can be here,’ said Lee Hyang-jo, a ballerina at the Korean National Ballet who visits the base once a week to train the soldiers.

” ‘But as the soldiers learn ballet little by little, they laugh more and have a great time and seeing that makes me think that coming here is worthwhile,’ she said.”

I suspect it is fun for her, too, in the same way that teaching English lit to a class of engineers was fun for one professor I heard about. The fresh perspectives of those who come from an entirely different discipline has to be rewarding for a teacher.

More at Reuters.

Photo: Reuters

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Photo of Gertrude Ely: Bryn Mawr College Collection

I was on the brink of unsubscribing to the American Academy of Poets poem-a-day e-mail because I let so many pile up and then have to slog through all sorts of contemporary brain twisters.

But as I was working my way through the poems today, I came across the one below. I thought, “Oh, I know exactly what this is about” and was carried back to my college days and hanging out at the home of my great aunt’s friend Gertrude Ely.

Gertrude Ely was quite elderly at that time but really interesting to be around. She knew all sorts of movers and shakers and was an awesome storyteller. I happened to be staying at her house one weekend when she received an unusual letter.

An elderly Philadelphia gentleman wrote that he had read in the Bulletin that she had received some civic award, and he just had to write and tell her a memory he had from his service in WW I in Europe. The Army was sending over carloads of friendly, proper young volunteers to chat with and cheer soldiers and bring a breath of home. The man wrote he would never forget a load of girls pulling up in an open car and Gertrude Ely calling out, “Any of you boys from Philadelphia?” He said, “At that moment, I believe every soldier there was wishing he was from Philadelphia.”

Gertrude Ely at my college graduation.

1966-GS-ELY-AT-CB-GRADUATION

***

American Boys, Hello! by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Oh! we love all the French, and we speak in French
As along through France we go.
But the moments to us that are keen and sweet
Are the ones when our khaki boys we meet,
Stalwart and handsome and trim and neat;
And we call to them—“Boys, hello!”
“Hello, American boys,
Luck to you, and life’s best joys!
American boys, hello!”

We couldn’t do that if we were at home—
It never would do, you know!
For there you must wait till you’re told who’s who,
And to meet in the way that nice folks do.
Though you knew his name, and your name he knew—
You never would say “Hello, hello, American boy!”
But here it’s just a joy,
As we pass along in the stranger throng,
To call out, “Boys, hello!”

For each is a brother away from home;
And this we are sure is so,
There’s a lonesome spot in his heart somewhere,
And we want him to feel there are friends
right there

In this foreign land, and so we dare
To call out “Boys, hello!”
“Hello, American boys,
Luck to you, and life’s best joys!
American boys, hello!”

[Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote “American Boys, Hello!” while visiting France during the latter stages of World War I as entertainment for the American soldiers stationed there.]

Photo of Ella Wheeler Wilcox: American Academy of Poets, here.

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In a Sun Sentinel article called “Battling back: US veterans help each other,” Diane C. Lade writes about the most logical people to help “veterans who have ended up on the wrong side of the law.

“Some former soldiers appearing in the new veterans’ court in Broward County, Fla, aren’t just getting fines, probation, or counseling. They’re getting mentors.

“Veterans Helping Veterans — modeled after a successful program in Palm Beach County, Fla. — pairs seasoned former military service men and women with veterans, of all ages and from all wars, who have ended up on the wrong side of the law.

“Though created in 2010 through Broward’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, known as RSVP, the program didn’t start thriving until being connected to the county’s Veterans’ Treatment Court, which opened in May.

“Now, it’s receiving three to four court referrals weekly (although any veteran can apply for assistance) and has 18 mentors, who under RSVP guidelines must be age 55 or older.  …

“The veterans’ court is designed to channel people who suffer from behavior, mental health, or substance abuse issues connected to their service into counseling or treatment programs.” Read more.

Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters/File
US Army Private First Class Peter Gong, a Vietnam War veteran and member of the National Guard, stands in front of a US flag during an American Legion event in Hempstead, N.Y.

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