Remember My Name.
We are patrolling outside Gereshk. You may know the place. Helmand province. In sunny Afghanistan. It is hot – very hot. I am a long way from home. I miss the family, the children, the fun. But I joined up of my own free will. This is my job. My duty. This is for my country. We walk in a straight line at the side of the road. If you could call it a road. Dirt track more like. I cradle my rifle in my arms. It looks causal but we are always on alert. We are very visible which is risky but we have back up if we need it. We watch for ambushes and hints of the enemy. This particular place is a hot spot , plenty of action. I always dreamed of the action, wanted it so badly that until my first fire fight. Then it was a case of I wish I had a deeper hole to hide in. Any soldier will tell you. The hours and days of boredom, repetitive tasks, tedious patrols. Then bang. It all goes haywire. Contact with the enemy. Heart in throat. Adrenaline. When minutes are like hours. The thing that really worries me is the ambush. No warning. No signs. No chance to fight back.
And today it happens. It is a pure blue sky above. Its mid-afternoon. Just a usual patrol. I hear the soft whistling sound but we all react too late. A massive explosion tears the air, raises a huge cloud of dust, bodies are thrown to the ground. Me included.
Bullets start flying kicking up dirt. I don’t care. Im lying on my side and I can’t move. I see things but I cant hear. Im know I’m hurt but strangely there is no pain. A total numbness. I think, ‘where’s my rifle’, when I need it. But I can’t move my arms or legs. I am then aware I’m being dragged from behind. I dragged behind a small mud brick wall. Some shelter at least. I suddenly feel cold but the sun beats down on my face. My hearing is returning. I can hear the phut of bullets digging into soil and mud. There is a lot of shouting. Some screaming. I look up into the face of my best friend. He looks shocked. I can’t believe it. He’s crying. I know what’s happening here. My war is over. I recall the first time I seen the aftermath of an explosion. Bodies blown apart. I wanted to cry and be sick. I want to say to him ‘Tell me the truth’, ‘Is it bad’, but my mouth doesn’t seem to work either. I just want to close my eyes and sleep.
I think back to my childhood days. Warm summer days playing hide and seek with my brothers and sister. Then my own children. My son, my little man. Carrying him on my shoulders. Laughing. And my daughter. My beautiful daughter who got all her good looks from her mother. As my wife always told me with a smile. I am so sad. And much colder now. I know I won’t be seeing them again. Ever. How will they cope? How will my children grow up? Will they remember me with fondness? And my elderly parents. Just one more time to say I love them dearly? Too late. Far too late. I think it strange, that its getting dark. It’s not night time yet. I hope someone remembers me when this war is over. Im only 28 years old. Like so many others.
Remember my name.
Khan Fawad Shinwari.