Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Flat Stanley and the Girls from Jibra’il...

I wanted to place a coupla pictures I have taken of the children of A-Stan since I have been here in country. Not only are they insatiably curious but they happen to be the future of this country.

This is one of my favorites taken at the Herat boys school. There are 3,500 boys ages 6-16 here trying to get an education despite the conditions under which they have to study. The main building is an empty windowless shell givin to the kids by the Afghan national police. Behind it you can see the tomb of Alexander's daughter dating back to the second century with it's minerets stretching to the sky. Upon seeing us arrive ,we caused kind of a stir, the headmaster called the school day over and the mob of children decended upon us like a swarm of locusts. Smiling and waving, shaking hand after hand and laughing like lunatics we basked in the love of these kids who just wanted to see the soldiers and their cool toys.

As I was trying to get back through the crowd a boy of about twelve turned to me and said "America...Yes, thank you...thank you." I reached out my hand and the picture was taken.

We two humans, so different yet so alike. A finer moment I cannot recall. Bless them all.Some of the others were taken at the girls school outside Herat at Jabra'il. There I got my first look at the young women of A-stan with out the manditory burka. These girls were fearless and walked right up to me and started asking me my name, age, was I married, did I have kids etc...typical girls....how about that!

They were and always will be a wonderfully memorable moment of my time here.Some of the elders who have lived throught he worst of the Soviets, Taliban, and the tribal warlords have the wisdom to accept the help and assistance of the outside international community but it is these children who dare to dream of a free land without the pain and anguish of another war. It is my prayer that in some small way I have helped them to gain that goal.

Published 10/11/2005

Flat Stanley and the Girls from Jibra’il

World traveler, goodwill ambassador, all around man about town, Flat Stanley has fast become an underground icon of grammar school children around the world. Not bad for a hand colored paper thin idol from the mind of Jeff Brown.

The book by the same name has started a national phenomenon since his creation in 1964. Flat Stanley is a boy who gets flattened by his bulletin board when it falls on him during the night. So, Stanley must learn to live as a flat boy. In some ways it can be a load of fun. Scurrying down the sewers looking for his Mom’s ring, sliding under doors, flying like a kite, and traveling around the country in an envelope are just some of the adventures he has had. When he wanted to go see his friend in California his parents just rolled him up and mailed him. The school project makes Stanley go on an adventure wherever the Child’s mind can reach. The sender is asked to let him spend some time and with them then write a little about his visit in their town.

What does Stanley have to do with the war on terror you ask? Well he’s here, that’s what.
One of our officer’s children has sent him to Afghanistan to see firsthand the Asian experience. So, as a good soldier does, Stanley was sent out into the Afghan countryside to visit other boys and girls in school. Once there we used our interpreter to relay his story and to take pictures of him with other children. The smiles and the laughter of these children who have virtually nothing is like balm to the soul. Herat, Farah, Shindand and other towns around our area have fallen prey to the magic of a child’s dream. For just a moment, you see their faces light up and all the possibilities for the heart of a nation and the future stand by for all to see. I hope to be able to see my son’s class do the same project and send my own “Stanley” on a trip around the world with me.

Within the same vein, we at Camp Victory have adopted a girl’s school outside of Herat so we may be able to bring them some of basic things they need to assist in their education.
This project really fell into my lap as we were requested from higher to have a security escort team ready for a trip into Herat. Our mission was to guide a CERP {Community Emergency Response Project} team out to a few schools in the area and speak to the Elders about the needs of the village.

The leader of the team is Major XXXXXXXXXX, a Vermont native who until deployment worked in the senior manager program for the I.R.S. at the federal level. Her new working title is the project officer of the civil military affairs branch for our FOB that encompasses four provinces: Herat, Ghowar, Farah, and Badghis. This collective area almost matches the size of her home state. She periodically visits sites listed by the team chiefs and commanders of our outer FOBs that may have a “need” for special attention. Wells for clean water, school buildings, supplies, wall construction for security, windows, medicine, clothing, and gear for winterization and general repairs are just some of the desires of the many. Yet the image I’m trying to convey is blurred. You see, Major Truman is a woman of great power and influence in a country where the future of women is as dark as the burkas they’re forced to wear. To see her “working” a crowd of hundreds of men who’ve lined up for assistance from us is nothing short of a miracle in Afghanistan. Many times after the meetings both men and woman have pulled her aside and spoke in hushed whispers how proud they are of her both as a leader and an officer in the US military.

It is almost unfathomable the “need” here. So, seeing the enormity of the task ahead we have decided to start close to ”home” and adopt a school here in Herat.

The village of Jabra’il is about five miles west of the city in a dusty patch of open ground near a dry river bed. The town is sadly indicative of the many of the places here in Afghanistan. Trash strewn streets separate the collapsed and crumbling buildings from the open sewers winding there way down the center of the roads. There, children of all ages run barefoot through the refuse pedaling soda and phone cards. It is hard, if not impossible, to describe this scene adequately. The smell alone will leave a lifetimes impression.

Yet as we drive our small convoy through the streets you would think we were bringing a combination of circus/parade/ice cream man all in one. The children run out and wave and follow the route on bicycles and foot all the while yelling their English phrases like chastised fans at a hockey ring. We met with a delegation from the village on what could be done to help with the coming winter then went on to the girl’s school. [Middle from grade 7-10]

The building is a three story red brick structure with poured concrete landings on each floor. The façade is spackled with patches much like the adolescent faces inside. Most of the windows are installed on the second and third floor classrooms but the southern side of the building stands empty and unfinished. The classrooms are small, about 15 X 20 feet where more than fifty girls sit shoulder to shoulder trying to get an education. The basement is also used as a classroom sporting a bare earthen floor and hot and cold running wind gusts. The front yard is enclosed with a six foot brick wall to help separate the girls from outside distractions and to safety them from “undesirable” influences.

They study: Geometry, Chemistry, Physics, Math, Biology, Geography, History, Dari, English, Pashto, and Arabic. Also included are the Koran and other religious text. The books we will be able to buy locally for they are in the area dialect. If you wish to donate some supplies for the school they are firstly:

Any writing instruments:
Pencils, pens, markers, crayons, highlighters, dry erase markers, chalk, paper spiral notebooks, post it notes, 1” and 2” binders.
World wall maps, maps of Afghanistan and America, globes, Atlases.
Color pictures of the human body for anatomy/physiology. Skeleton for bone study.
Dictionaries from Persian to English-------English to Persian.
Chess, Checkers, sports Balls: Soccer, Football, Basketball, Volleyballs.

The easiest method for us at this time is to send the supplies directly to us and we will then take them out to the schools. If there is more than needed at one, we will give the overload to another. Believe me; there will never be too much. Just remember there is NO electricity in the schools and if there was it is in 220 volt, so no devices needing power.
These children truly are the heart and hope of this nation. Right now these kids lie upon the cusp of the past based on war, poverty and ignorance and a future filled with promise. If they are to help create a vision for a new Afghanistan they must have the tools in which to build new lives and a sound bedrock foundation starts with the basics.
Help us, help them.


  1. Robyn Truman spread her legs for any man of greater rank .. what a back stabbing whore.

  2. Camp Victory is where bad things happen, what is happening there ? What are we doing there? Why the dead bodies?