by Adam G. House
It was a familiar, hot morning at Camp Blessing, Afghanistan. Sweat poured from my clammy, flushed face, even before I walked out into the morning heat which would only grow more intense throughout the day. Feeling nauseous is a little more difficult to hide from people than other ailments. Even if you can manage to play it off like you’re feeling okay, people can usually see the physical signs that you’re sick. I thought I was doing a pretty decent job of concealing my desire to puke my insides out at any second, but the ghost-white face and clamminess of my skin betrayed me. My buddies in uniform allowed me the dignity of not making a big deal of it; we all knew what it was to put in a full day’s work without complaining when feeling like total shit. A good soldier just drives on. We also seemed to have a sort of unspoken understanding that we were all in this together, knew we didn’t want to hear one another complain all the time, and would ultimately watch out for each other the best we could. Nobody wanted to show anything that could be considered a sign of weakness. But, this didn’t keep the local nationals we were working with that day from noticing the obvious.
My buddies and I had spent some time on a detail escorting local Afghani workers as they went about their jobs at Camp Blessing. We worked with mostly the same guys, all the time, for many days in a row. The soldiers and the Afghani workers in the detail had gotten to know one another pretty well and were basically on a first (or at least one name) basis. Watching these men —who had very little of the material possessions or creature comforts we tend to take for granted in the States—as they worked very hard in the scalding sun, day after day, had instilled in me a certain respect for their character, and admiration for their integrity as people of constant prayer. The gulf between our cultures seemed small when I observed the common humanity between us, and I felt very protective of the Afghanis I guarded on a routine basis. Many of them were literally risking their very lives, and the safety of their homes and families, by working with American soldiers.
On this particular day, while I was trying to ignore and work through the persistent feeling of nausea, a little, elderly Afghani worker named Wali noticed that I was sick. He approached and asked what was the matter. I tried to dismiss it with a simple brush off statement, but Wali wanted to pray for my good health. Normally, the other soldiers and I would never allow physical contact with a local, no matter how good the rapport between us. Wali slowly walked up to me with open hands so I could easily observe his actions and read his body language. My M-4 was strapped across my chest, my hand on the grip, and I decided to see what he would do before possibly reacting.
Wali gently laid his hand on my free arm with his eyes closed, and said a simple but heartfelt prayer for me. He then slowly backed away with his hands still open for my observation, smiled, and told me that he hoped I would feel better. It reminded me of the sincere concern I remember from those who prayed for each other in the Christian churches in which I was raised. Wali never tried to approach and lay hands on me again, but the impact of his kindness that day is something I’ll never forget.
That is how a little, elderly Muslim worker in Afghanistan inspired me. How could anyone ever say that we should just carpet bomb this whole region of people as though they are all somehow less than fellow brothers and sisters in humanity? How could it be that, back in my own country, many people are so blinded with war fever and bloodlust that they disregard the horrific toll taken on good and innocent people as a result of our American policy of perpetual military occupation of foreign nations? What about the human cost of war? This is partially the reason why I’m now convinced that there must be a moral justification for war, with a clear mission in which overwhelming force achieves a decisive victory in short order, and concludes with soldiers being brought home as quickly as possible. This is consistent with the stated method of war espoused by the only veteran in the current U.S. Presidential race, TX Congressman (R) Dr. Ron Paul.
I recently spent Super Tuesday outside my voting precinct in Tennessee, displaying Ron Paul signs for voters to see as they drove up to the polls. While there, a man named Fred came by and held up his sign for a while, as well. His sign said something to the effect of “Elect Jesus Christ as President of your soul.” Fred and I talked for a bit, and I shared with him my intentions to ride a bicycle 700 miles in 26 days, from my home in Tennessee to the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay this August, in memorial of my combat veteran friend who recently took his own life rather than live any longer with the daily struggles of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Upon telling him that I wanted to raise awareness of veteran PTSD and suicide on my journey, Fred said he was a minister, and that he wanted to give me something. He went to his car and brought back a cloth, held it in my hand, then prayed for safe passage on my trip to Tampa, and for the encouragement of our veterans. I told him I would be sure to carry this ‘prayer cloth’ with me on my trip. I had never met Fred before in my life, but his show of support and act of kindness inspired me.
I also secured two votes for Ron Paul that day, as I shared with the other candidates’ poll watchers my desire to see my brothers and sisters-in-arms brought home from unconstitutional and unnecessary wars. One guy even asked for a Ron Paul yard sign, which I gave him. The overall Super Tuesday results may not have been what many of us supporting Ron Paul had hoped for, but there is still much about which to be encouraged. A brokered RNC in August could yield quite the surprise.
I admit that I’m not much of a praying man these days, but the fact that others would seek to petition God for me in their own way is personally inspiring. Thank you, Wali and Fred. Thank you to anyone who would pray for my good health and safe journeys. You just never know from where your inspiration might come.
Adam G. House served with the famed 2/503rd Infantry Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, including a deployment to the infamous Konar Province of Afghanistan.