The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Guest Blogger: SGT. Danger Considers Setting and Character

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Nathan Geist is currently serving as a Chaplain Assistant in the Army. He is a 2005 graduate of Zion-Benton Township High School, has studied for 3 years at Southern Illinois University, and recently appeared in the film The Promotion. Sgt. Geist will appear as a periodic contributor to The Seeker throughout the next year as he fulfills a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Note: this posting is almost a month old; I’ve been wrapped up in thesis work… my apologies for old information… Jeff

April 8, 2009

Bandee was in the thick of it again, again in Bermel. This time, he was standing in line for chow a little before noon when, not far away, some Taliban members hid just behind a hill known as “Spaghetti Hill.” Pretty soon, an explosion penetrated the FOB. A rocket landed with the gates. He made it to a bunker with a bunch of other soldiers before another rocket hit. Nobody was hurt, thankfully.

Later, Bandee ended up becoming the gunner for a combat mission. Gunning, for those that don’t know, is the deadliest position any soldier could have on a mission, in my opinion. If an IED goes off, they the first damage. If they get shot at, they are the first to get fired upon, as well as the first (and often only) to return fire. If they get shot at by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG), they are the ones who suffer serious injuries from the shrapnel. Fortunately, Bandee’s team didn’t experience any combat that day.

As for things by me over at my FOB, the only combat we’ve experienced is with the weather. There was one day in particular that it felt like a hurricane was ripping across our FOB. It began as rain, then turned to light hail, then progressed to large hail, and the wind caused our entire chapel to shake as items crashed to the ground. For awhile, it was too heavy to even travel to the bathroom just a few feet away. I’m told that this is what’s considered “mountain weather.”

Many of you have asked about my potential transfer to southern Afghanistan, and I finally have an update. According to the Task Force Commander, Brigadier General (BG) Huber, the transfer is now set in stone: all of the 33rd Brigade Combat Team currently under Task Force Phoenix will be transferred in June, most likely to Helmand or Kandahar, which are the deadliest provinces in Afghanistan.For those of you wondering about my friends, the interpreters, things are going well with them. The other day, one of them randomly and humorously commented to me, “You’re like Spider-Man.” I had never expressed my fondness of the comic character to him, nor did I tell him that my costume of choice for Halloween every year is Peter Parker. Perhaps when Tobey Maguire moves on, someone will let me carry the franchise to its slow death.

As for my assigned interpreter, he just got engaged less than a week ago, which just like in America, is a very big event in one’s life. One time, my Terp was speaking on the phone with his fiancée, and he offered to have me talk to her with my limited knowledge of Dari. So, I picked up the phone and attempted to ask her, “How are you?” The other end of the phone drew silent as the interpreters around me erupted in laughter. Apparently, I need to brush up on my Dari, because instead of saying “How are you?” I accidentally said, “You are a terrorist.” Fortunately, Muslims are a forgiving people.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating how much I truly admire the Afghans here. In America, I know many people turn away from Christianity because they see hatred bred through the religion because of people’s (in my opinion) misconstrued conception of the message of Jesus and the Bible. People often feel they’ve been wronged by Christians, and though that may be accurate, it saddens me to see people turn away from Jesus just because of His followers. But, here in Afghanistan, there has been so much more severe religious oppression than in America, yet Afghans don’t blame Mohammad for his followers’ actions, and instead blame the ones responsible: the extremists. Instead of turning away from Mohammad because his teachings have caused so much violence, the Afghans instead embrace Mohammad all the more strongly because they recognize his message isn’t necessarily the one that the radicals are preaching and acting upon. I know that if we were oppressed by Muslims in America, the Muslim population would certainly go down, just as the Christian population has been decreasing as people feel victimized by Christianity in today’s society. As America is considered much more enlightened than Afghanistan, it makes me wonder why then America is turning from Jesus while Afghanistan is turning to Mohammad, yet Afghanistan is victimized much more by radical followers of Mohammad’s teachings than America could ever even imagine they were victimized by the Bible’s teachings. Even though Afghanistan is oppressed by religion, they don’t see that as an excuse to turn away from it. Instead, their faith is rock-steady and just as apt to follow their religion’s teachings, whether they have radicals within their religion or not. I envy the faithfulness of the Muslim population during a time when it would be easy for them to reject the religion. I just wish many Christians could have half the faith in Jesus that these Muslims have in Mohammad.

When I look at the countryside of Afghanistan, I can’t help but think about all the potential it has. This place could become a tourist attraction, but unfortunately there is so much work to be done. I’ve spoken with my interpreters, and they had no idea what a “roller coaster” was, and when I explained what it was, they were amazed to hear that I had actually been on one and lived to tell about it. It took me a few minutes to convince them that I honestly, truly, truthfully had been on a “roller coaster” before. Yet, with all the mountains here, a grand roller coaster or theme park could easily be built, if only it was a certainty that it wouldn’t be blown up a week after it was completed. This is a country in which the thought of carnivals, malls, and water parks are too foreign to understand. And, perhaps that is part of the problem as to why none exist here.At the same time, the country is being “westernized” by countless Afghanistan TV shows. In fact, they have an “Afghanistan Idol,” though it’s not called that. Unfortunately, even a contestant show like “Afghanistan Idol” is run by politics… the winner of the show’s most recent season was not regarded as the best singer by any means, yet he won because he had strong political ties. Imagine an “American Idol” where Sanjaya Malakar wins the contest because he is friends with a governor.

Even with all the problems Afghanistan is having, it still is a comfortable place for its inhabitants, who are very simple people. They enjoy living a life that brings them closer to God, family, and friends. They eat together in fellowship, and treat each other (and outsiders like me) like royalty. The only hatred in their hearts is that of the flawed theology of the radical Muslims that give Islam a bad name. Everyone has a good time with each other, and though they know their country isn’t perfect, they accept their homeland and love their country. When they’re disappointed in their president, they’re not ashamed of their country; when they’re disappointed in their religious leaders, they’re not ashamed of their prophet. Even though it’s America trying to help Afghanistan become a better country, I believe that we could learn a wholesome lesson from this simple country, and in that way, Afghanistan would be able to help America.For my faithful, I simply ask for your continued prayers for us here. Not only have we already felt the sting of sacrifice, but “our day” can come at any time. And to be honest, I am tired of putting together memorial services for heroes that will never get to enjoy their labor again.

In less than 10 days, I will be at the 50% mark of my deployment orders. But I hope you’ll be ready for me when I return earlier than that.

Thank you, and have a God-blessed Easter weekend!

love Nate

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Written by seeker70

May 8, 2009 at 11:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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