A Soldier Changes His Mind and Heart

Our reader Jim Elliott flags an “absolutely fascinating and newsworthy” discussion thread in Reddit. “If anyone wants to understand why we can’t win in Afghanistan or Iraq, this is it.” One of the most up-voted stories:

I was mortuary affairs in 2008 during my first deployment to Afghanistan and I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I never had to fight, but I was constantly dealing with the remains of 18-22 year old soldiers that had been blown into pieces or burned alive due to HMEs [homemade explosives] and IEDs. Seeing your fellow soldiers and countrymen brutally killed in such a way that is easy to see as cowardly turned me into a budding racist pretty quickly. I hated the Islamic religion and the people in Afghanistan and I had an opinion similar to the whole “just nuke em all” mentality.

But one day we were called to the hospital on base to remove a dead civilian local national (which we often did if they died in our hospital or on base) and it turned out to be a 3 year old little girl that was shot with AK-47 fire at a fairly close range.

Her father followed us to the morgue, as we had to get his permission to take her into our care because we were males and all that, and he didn’t seem particularly bothered by his daughters violent murder imo.

It wasn’t until we placed her into a hand-made casket (a sgt and I stayed up all night making a wood casket out of cheap particle board we found, despite neither of us having any clue what we were doing) and draped the Afghanistan flag onto it that his emotions came out. When we began to load the casket into the back of a truck to transport her off base, he lost it and collapsed onto the casket containing his little girl. We were holding her at the time so we nearly lost it, but were able to set her down as he gripped the flag and the casket and wailed louder than any wailing I would ever seen. I don’t know if you've ever seen a grown man truly cry as if he’d just lost everything, but it's surprising how much it affects you.

I realized in that moment how wrong I was about everything. Felt like a real moron.