Afghan Children & Pens

Today I tagged along with the ZADT as they went on a dismounted patrol through the bazaar in Shah Joy, Afghanistan.  Shah Joy is the largest city in Zabul Province.  It is situated on the primary highway in the country.  These two facts make it one of the more dangerous places in Zabul Province.  The dismounted patrol was interesting.  Time and time again I am truly impressed by the ZADT’s poise, organization and supreme attention to each and every detail.  Mission briefings are clear and concise. Today was no different. Every soldier knew what they were to do and when they were to do it.

The purpose of this foot patrol was to make sure that a few hundred bags of wheat were where the regional Governor said they were.  The ZADT went into fact-gathering mode.  Using an Interpreter they spoke with a few different people and tried to get a clear story.  The story is still unfolding.  I’ll post photos of what the bazaar looks like and the overall sense of the scene in a later post.

For this post I’ll focus on a School Supply Drive that my colleagues at Twin Cities Public Television, my wife’s colleagues at GovDelivery and my daughter’s classroom participated in.  Truth be told, no amount of pens will satiate Afghan kids.  Afghan kids know US Soldiers carry pens with them so ‘pen’ is one of two English words I’ve heard them say.  The other is ‘chocolate’.  I tried to pick the right time to hand out some pens; however, word spreads and soon there are a dozen kids all asking for something.

Afghan boysecond boy

While I was on this 2 hour patrol I saw members of both the Mississippi and Minnesota National Guard handing out candy. The scene can be overwhelming, these children don’t have all of the creature comforts that our children do, but small gestures like: a pen, a Life Saver or a bottle of Gator Ade makes them smile, and in turn makes us all smile a little, too.