Michael's Dispatches

Night Into Day


Corporal Lee Edwards with Molly the bomb dog.  Everyone loves Molly.  First off, she’s a cool dog that likes to swim in the river with the soldiers, and secondly she trots into combat and has found a lot of bombs that could/would have blown people up.  Molly can cross ladders spanning deep ditches, or when needed she piggybacks on Corporal Edward’s shoulders.  It seems that every working dog in Afghanistan is treated better than the soldiers.  Molly is no exception.  Corporal Edwards treats Molly like the Queen of Sangin.

Up to this point, there had been no gunfire, but first light was coming at 0440, and we needed to get into position before light.  So my section of eight left the compound while others stayed behind with Rifleman Grieves.

Corporal Kenny Copeland 2 Plt A Coy 2 Rifles.

We moved another two hundred meters through low corn to another compound, which was occupied by a family.  The man of the “house” asked if he could leave, and if he could take his wives and children.  The British soldiers treated the family respectfully saying they were free to stay or to go.  I kept the camera low.  After all, the man was not known to be Taliban, just a farmer, and it’s bad enough that we would commandeer his compound for half a day, much less that someone would start to take photos.  The soldiers were respectful of the little property, though there was practically no property other than a few filthy blankets, nasty pillows, one light bulb, and just enough cooking utensils to fill up a brown grocery bag.  The family tantamount lives in a barn with three cows, two donkeys, some sheep, chickens, and what appeared to be a fat dove-like bird in a cage hanging above their filthy blankets.  Corn, okra and other vegetables were growing within the compound.

The compound, rooms and all, covered an area about the size of a tennis court.  Tomato slices were laid out drying on a chest-high wall while human and animal feces dried just near the bottom of the same wall.  Fred Flintstone would call the place primitive.

The compound had been selected because the commanders thought Taliban might stumble into us while the Taliban were, let’s say, reacting to some other initiatives.  If the Taliban ran into us, the soldiers were to kill them, and by now various elements were scattered smartly about to make the Taliban feel like a pinball, only instead of getting hit with flippers, it might be machine guns, rockets, mortars, howitzers, and fire from aircraft.  The Taliban are trying to snare us with mines, bombs, and SAFIRE (small-arms fire), and basically we try to do the same, only we don’t use mines, and our bombs often come from the sky.  The Taliban are very brave, but they are ignorant brutal men who murder locals who do not support them, and brave doesn’t stop bullets.

After we occupied the compound and the family walked out, the soldiers heard some activity and were keen to check it out.  Compound walls are incredibly resilient and can stop 30mm rounds, so AK-47 bullets make little more impression than do mosquitoes on windshields, but that doesn’t stop people from tossing grenades over the walls or popping up from tunnels.

The rustling next door was just a family going about their business.

And so we waited, and waited.  While other British and Afghan elements did their work.  Our job was to wait for about ten hours to shoot any Taliban who stumbled by, or maybe call in an air strike or cannon fire.

Lance Corporal Kevin Bowen, from Jamaica, mans the radio after carefully checking/cleaning his machine gun and laying the brush down.  Kevin’s accent is easier to understand than some of the British accents.

Riflemen Jamie Massey and Jordan Farrer checked their weapons and zonked out.  Everyone was wet from the canal crossings and sweat, and so the morning was chilly.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ken Van Tassell · 10 years ago
    In the world everybody is caught up on a stupid comment and reaction by a couple of parties while brothers and sister are laying it out for Freedom. Why cant people see the common thread that holds us together and show basic respect that these soldiers live and die by everyday. Another wonderful job Michael GOD bless all who fight for basic goodness against EVIL!
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    Kudzu · 10 years ago
    One thing that can be said about this fight is that the Brits are knee-deep in it down in Helmund and Kandahar. Thank you Mr. Yon for covering this and publicizing their sacrifice. We are not alone in this.
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    Mad Dog · 10 years ago
    Another great article giving us more insight into the everyday lives of the Afghanis and to our stalwart Brit brothers and sisters. The boyfriend of my niece was an Almighty pilot for a long time and told my about missions from Kuwait over the Stan. Glad to see they are still there and you gave them some credit, Tough job for them as well. He is now a B2 pilot, but that is another story.
    Anyway, your story made me make another donation to you. Keep safe!
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    Matt · 10 years ago
    Fantastic dispatches Mr. Yon. Good show to the Brits, and stick it to those bastards.
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    Zeno Davatz · 10 years ago
    Another excellent article! Good to see all these faces and know the story of the soldiers and how they live and smile far away from home. Also good to see, that women are also very welcome with the Brits! That river look wonderful for a refreshment!
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    Gismo Fly · 10 years ago
    I was in that river with them. Arn't they bloody marvellous?

    Thanks, Mike.
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    Rog · 10 years ago
    Its great to see that the UK MOD is serialising your dispatches Mike. A testament to your work which is the benchmark for the Afghan war. Brilliant photos too, reminds me of Tim Pages work in Viet Nam when I was a kid. I must make a contribution now as I spend so much time checking your reports.

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    David M · 10 years ago
    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/29/2009 - News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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    Lisa Claire · 10 years ago
    This puts us in the thick of it! Thank you from this USAR Colonel's wife (He's now serving in the Middle East). Photos are incredible. God Bless the Brits and all of you fighting the Taliban. You are not forgotten!
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    Moose · 10 years ago
    Headed off to London in a couple of weeks. Do you have many readers in the UK?

    Thanks for all you do.
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    Asif Ali · 10 years ago
    Like I said, what are we really sacrificing for??? world hegemoney, oil dumps, exporting our culture to aliens who enjoy spirituality is better than us. One Question: Why do we need to stretch our Empires, don't we have enough space or we are just blood hungry war hogs who simply can't wait to shoot brown people.
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    Radio Jihad · 10 years ago
    Afghanistan is an Islamic Country, the Qur'an is its Constitution, and strict Sharia Law is the Judiciary and culture. Sharia Law (Allahs Law) and our Secular Laws can never can never cohabitate peacefully according to the Qur'an.

    That said, the Taliban control the towns and all the people including the Children. The Mosque is the center of their universe and our ROE will not allow our soldiers to destroy the Mosque even after Taliban store arms and receive aid and comfort.

    Are we there to kill a few Taliban when we can and the revert control back to the Taliban when our soldiers leave - that is how it appears to me.

    Should our military be used to beat the Islamists into submission and force a Democratic government mirroring our own (nation building) as we did in WW2. That means very limited ROE and Mosques are now legitimate military targets.

    I don't have the answer - but Mr. Yon does show our troops putting their lives on the line going on a patrol with no clear objectives other than to kill a the stray taliban where you find them - as long as they are armed and not in a Mosque.

    Are we fighting the Islamist ideology that demands we submit to their will? I think we are!
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    Andrew Lale · 10 years ago
    You have at least one- me. I've been reading Mr Yon for the last four/five years. Doing single-handedly the work the 10,000 lazy bastards at the BBC won't...
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    JJCollette · 10 years ago
    The media refuses to do on-site reporting (or even honest reporting) and I rely on Michael to tell me what's happening on the ground in Afghanistan. Donating money to keep his dispatches coming is a privilege. How much do we all waste on incidentals: gum, coffee, candy, that extra beer? Add up your weekly incidentals and consider: who needs that stuff more - you, or Michael, who is doing a bang-up job keeping the rest of us awake & aware? I (finally!) put my money where my mouth is and signed up to make a monthly donation. It makes a difference - maybe the difference between Michael staying in Afghanistan and reporting, or leaving Afghanistan. And I want him there.

    I don't know Michael, I've never met him. But consider: who do you trust more when it comes to Afghanistan - that AP reporter who is phoning it in using 3rd hand sources & garbling up his article with political bias and spin, or Michael, actually IN Afghanistan, going on missions with troops, writing to us and for us his first-hand reports and impressions? No contest.
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    Uncle Jefe · 10 years ago
    Do not purport to speak for 'us', Asif Ali.
    'We' are sacrificing so that 'we' can live without someone telling 'us' who or what to worship, who can or can't be educated, how we can or can't live...it's called freedom.
    So nutcases like the Taliban can't force the people of a country like Afghanistan to submit to the Taliban's perverted version of Islam, and offer scum like Al Qaeda a base from which to plan, train, and export violent jihad.
    What oil have we taken from Iraq? What oil is there to be taken from Afghanistan?
    And did you notice that the people fighting FOR the freedom of the Iraqis and Afghanis are people of all colors, as seen in Michael Yon's photos?
    Please crawl back under your rock and stay there.
    You do not speak for 'us'.
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    Ron · 10 years ago
    Nice article. Thank you. However, I would like to know how operations like this fit into the supposively pop-centric strategy. Was the Afghan compensated for using his compound? Where is the interaction with the population. You describe body counts, which is exactly what we are are told is not important. Body counts do not demonstrate wrestliing control from the Taliban. I love these descriptions of tactical ops, but I do not see how they lead to success. Are there any development tasks being accomplished in Sanguin? Anything along these lines would help us understand what is going on.
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    Scott Dudley · 10 years ago
    If the Brits do not understand the language or the culture (kid's drawings do not count) then there can be no pop-centric strategy. Why is there not an ANA embed with the Brits? Sangin seems nothing more than a war of attrition which coalition forces are doomed to lose as polititians begin to face an increasing outcry from home. Is there no language training before deployment? These are brave men and women who should not be sacrificed in a halfassed effort.
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    Papa Ray · 10 years ago
    Yes there should be an ANA or more embed with the Brits and any and all NATO forces in the Afgan. And there will be. There are thousands of Afghans training right now, but it is a drawn out process and then there is the lag getting them in the field and more training.

    Michael has a mission. He is trying to stay out of the politics and give you first hand knowledge of what is going on on the ground. This is not something anybody could do. You have to be a little crazy to do this type work, and you have to have the mental and physical ability and stamina to handle it. Michael has been in combat for over five years straight.

    I was in combat for 19 months and had had enough to last me a lifetime.

    Everyone who can should pony up and give Michael money to continue doing this. He is not paid by some employer, nor has any grants. If you can spend a hundred dollars a month on cable and beer, you can give the same so that Michael can continue his mission.

    Thanks Michael, stay safe and remember like I have told you before...you ain't bullet proof.

    Papa Ray
    West Texas
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    NahnCee · 10 years ago
    Thank you for this. It's nice to know the Brits have more going for them than what we saw in them retreating from Basra and giving up their sailors to the Persians. Interesting that so many of them look like Prince Harry. If he ever was allowed to go back into combat, it would be difficult for a sniper to pick out the real prince, surrounded by all the other ginger-haired warriors.
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    Thomas · 10 years ago
    Great stuff.
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    JohnW · 10 years ago
    RE: your comments entitled "BTW What are we Sacrificing For?" - Do you honestly believe what you wrote? Do you think Americans "...simply can't wait to shoot brown people"? Our country is _full_ of brown people, many of whom are fighting this war and have lost their lives. In case you have forgotten, thousands of people all over the world have been killed by Islamic extremists not because these were threatening others, but simply because they didn't hold to the same views as the extremists. They include women, children, the elderly, the disabled, fellow Muslims, and on and on. The "expendables." These extremists would be more than happy to slit your throat if you don't hold to their views. Their hope is to kill everyone you love. They aren't fighting for some noble cause - they want political and economic power, oh yeah, in the name of Allah, and if you stand in their way, you are vermin to be exterminated. My son fought in Iraq, had several friends die from IEDs, and saw directly the hatred and malice motivating the Jihadists. Wake up, Asif! It's not about skin color, cultural heritage, religious traditions, or politics. It's about hatred, greed, and lust for power and control over the lives of others. THAT is what we are sacrificing to destroy at the source.
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    windy · 10 years ago
    saying the brits retreated from basra implies we were beaten by the insurgents in basra.it would be like me implying america was beaten by the vietnamesse.which of course isnt true.whatever the reasons our militarys chose to withdraw you can bet its more about politics then any other reason.the british army is small and fighting a war in iraq and afganistan has put massive strain on our armed forces and to concentrate our limited resources to one battlefield seems to me common sense.my point is weather the battlefield is in basra our helmend the insurgents get kicked around the battlefield.trying to get an insight of this war on terror from CNN is about as useful as tits on a fish.
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    Scott Dudley · 10 years ago
    My bad. In rereading the dispatch, I realized I had missed the fact that there was an interpreter before the section of 8 moved out. I just think that understanding the customs and language is key to any sort of success. A mistake made in Vietnam.
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    Sara Johnson · 10 years ago
    I hold my breath between your dispatches. Nowhere else do we get this information. The other day I made a contribution. I encourage others to do the same. I'll cancel all subscriptions and put my money on your work, in order to see it continue. It is the least I can do, Michael Yon.
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    Nanci Shelton · 10 years ago
    If we all give even a little bit to support Michael we will all benefit. He is our only good resource out there. Thank you, Michael, and be safe.
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    Jimmy in Clearwater · 10 years ago
    Godspeed Michael. Thank you for the work you're doing. May our soldiers and allies rest safely when their hard work is finished. They are brave and we are proud of them all; Brits, American, and all of the coalition. Freedom isn't free. Its paid in blood by those willing to defend it.

    Thank a veteran today and everyday.
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    NYC Marine Vet · 10 years ago
    As a Marine with 2 combat tours (Iraq '03 & Afghanistan '04), I can't thank Mr. Yon enough for his efforts. In fact, my infantry unit and I captured 131 Taliban & Al Qaeda and killed about twice that many...all in Kandahar, Oruzgan, and Helmand provinces. So this coverage is most personal to me. Also, the reporters we had embedded with us didn't know there rear-end from their mouth, let alone how the "real" (re: front-line) military operates. Thus, their reporting was incredibly limited in breadth and scope. So, THANK YOU Mr. Yon for reporting the "real" story...to include both the bad and the good. The U.S. tends to only focus on the negative (numbers of casualties, etc.) and rarely ever mentions all of the good and progress being made (millions of girls now in school, thousands of schools being built, electricity, clean water sources, roadways built, etc.).
    And in response to Asif Ali - get a clue buddy! The only land America ever "takes" from another nation/people is the land needed to bury our fallen heroes. Also, I know for a fact that the 4 African-Americans and 8 Hispanics I had in my platoon of 39 couldn't possibly disagree with you more. Consequently, your arguments of imperialism and race-based targeting are completely unfounded...and make you sound absolutely clueless.
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    a father · 10 years ago
    A really personal report which outlines the day to day life lived by these heroines and heroes, it really is reporting of a far superior level to the sound bite reporting we tend to rely on via BBC and SKY. These soldiers are doing their duty and fighting for each other, they are fighting alongside the ANA and your report brings out the respectful approach they adopt with local families. It really tells their story and puts the flesh behind the headlines. The level of risk they face is clear from the report with the threat changing to and IED led one. Although we may be winning I suspect it will be many years before we this war ends and the only force that can truly win this war will be an Afghan force. A moderate and peaceful Afghanistan seems a long way away although it is an objective that is worth pursuing for our and the worlds long term security. So until then more boys and girls will need to live and patrol from the FOBs, and hopefully you will continue to tell their story.
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    Gordon · 10 years ago
    Two comments from above:

    The US Military did not decide to pull out of Vietnam. Politicians in Washington decided, it was a political decision.

    It was seldom reported and often wrong when it was, but there was a substantial effort on the part of US Military to learn customs and language in both Vietnam and Iraq. That only works when the troops have time to establish a relationship with the locals, and when the locals are receptive to a relationship. Given both it was quite successful.

    We were winning when I left.

    Semper Fi
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    Daniel Welborn · 10 years ago
    Thanks again Michael for these detailed dispatches, I feel right on the ground next to you and the soldiers. Regarding what others said that these missions may seem not to achieve much, I think that you're exactly showing the grunt's view... each group of soldiers is but a part of an overall strategy and I have some faith that the top commanders are putting together a good strategy. What's the goal, what does victory look like, as others have posted and asked? Afghans living peacefully, sustaining themselves, and not having elements like Taliban or Al Queda running around beheading them if they don't do exactly the right things. Also, regardless of how the Afghans are living, since it is a sparsely populated country without centralized institutions currently, if we weren't there, the area could be used for foreign jihadists to train to export their violence ala 9-11. We're there to keep the swamp drained, so to speak. So, I can see the point of being there. People often feel insurgencies are unbeatable, but there are precedents of an insurgency finally losing the will to fight and just fading into oblivion, leaving the peaceful industrious citizens alone to live their lives. So, it is possible. Not certain though, grant you that. In any event, Michael's presence and reporting there is not so much to endorse any particular thing going on, at least that's not the value I take away from it. There are soldiers there, fighting everyday, and he provides an excellent bird's eye (or even closer) view of it, and I find it interesting and fascinating to get this perspective, which very few if any other reporters provide. Kudos to Michael.
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    Scott Dudley · 10 years ago
    Gordon, I was an advisor on RVN gunboats in IV Corps (Nam Can). I received extensive language and cultural training in advance since I was the only American on board. After 4+ months of that, I was recalled to Saigon as Flag. Lt. to COMNAVFORV, ADM. Wilson. I attended the COMUSMACV briefings so I was able to view Vietnam from both the micro and macro sense. VERY few at our riverine base understood the language or culture. When I returned to Saigon, I found it a universal truth that the vietnamese civilians spoke very freely in vietnamese around Americans which is a strong indication that few americans spoke their language. I could give many anecdotal stories supporting this.

    It is always a political decision to go into or come out of war and that is as it should be in our form of government.
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    Mr. H · 10 years ago
    What an amazing collection of photos!!

    Thank you for sharing them.

    Mr. H
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    withheld for securit · 10 years ago
    Thank you for your honest reporting. Having been on more patrols than I can remember; I know that your product is genuine. Our folks have been busy as of lately unfortunately. Always glad to get those who fight for us out of dire situations; we would prefer not to have to fly. I pray that you and the good people you chronicle stay safe. Stay ahead on your immunizations, take your anti-malarials & avoid unnecessary risks. I hate having to patch up our wounded but consider it the greatest of privledges. I hope to run into you downrange but not in the back of my aircraft.
    -These things we do that others may live.
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    Anthony · 10 years ago
    This is my first read and will not be my last.
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    keith martin · 10 years ago
    my son is with 2 Rfles A company 2 platoon, its a pity the british media do not report the war so well, thank you
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    hukart · 10 years ago
    someone should tell them that washing himself and clothes in a river is not a good idea when locl people use it for drinking watter.
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    Peter Montbriand · 10 years ago
    I'm curious what your load out on a mission like this is. The military folks call it "battle-rattle". How much are you lugging around on a hot day as opposed to the plucky Brit soldiers(you did mention that they're carrying 2x times you, right?)?
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    alexakim · 10 years ago
    Michael, you continue to do an amazing job. I wish I could put my money where my appreciation is, but I can't at this time.

    I ask for someone, or any number of someones out there who read your dispatches, to perhaps boost their contribution by a buck or two for me, until I can again.

    The black and white photo, evocative, mysterious, rich with stories the reader will want to know every word of. Wow.

    I continue to look to you for your reportage and continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    I keep all Our Troops on my mind and in my prayers. Daily, throughout my day, grateful for the sacrifices they and their families make, and for their service.

    Please do let the Brits know that for sure this American values their friendship and amazing victories as if they were our own. Of course I pray for them too.

    Watch your 6.
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    Scott Dudley · 10 years ago
    For those interested

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    Former CH53 Crew Chi · 10 years ago
    If there is one person who I truly admire for the quality of his reporting it is Mike Yon. Once again Mike delivers with great work in his reporting on his embed with our British counterparts, who by the way look as professional as ever. Thanks so much for this story Mike, and thanks to all of our allied troops who are supporting the effort in Afghanistan and anywhere else in this troubled world. Thanks especially to 2 rifles A company for keeping Mike safe and reporting. I'd be proud to buy any of you a pint any time!
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    jrAnnapolis · 10 years ago
    Great work, as usual, from the Brits. Their contributions...on so many levels...are invaluable.
    I'll take issue with the following characterization: "...during the cowboy years since 2001, Afghanistan got worse". I don't consider Luttrell, Murphy, Axelson, and Dietz...just to name a small, but NOT insignificant representation...a bunch of cowboys. Out.
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    Aunt of 3 ANG · 10 years ago
    i read M Yon's blog from Iraq, and I got the impression that the British did a mighty good job while there and went thro everything our military did. Before that, i too thot the British just deserted their post. I take M Yon at his word. Many of our news broadcasts here in the US are not reliable in my opinion. They do not tell all the truth about the military. Fox News will give the military folks credit too. Oreilly donates proceeds from his books etc to help wounded warriors and another military group and ships cases of his book free of charge to soldiers overseas. One of the guys on Fox and Friends and Glen Beck donate proceeds from their books etc to good causes that benefit soldiers also. Therefore, I am more apt to believe what they say. I am glad that this site tells some about the various coalition soldiers from dif nations. So THANK YOU to all the coalition soldiers. I am thankful our military does not have to carry this burden alone.
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    Anni Golden · 10 years ago
    Every morning I check the news (USA) for the latest updates on Afghanistan. Sitting at my computer I check DOD sites, Twitter, etal. Then I do a reality check here. Thank you Michael. I pray the folks in D.C. read and give serious thought to your dispatches.
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    Ed Stockelbach · 10 years ago
    Stumbled on your site from defensetech.org, and posted your existence on the Galloping Beaver, exhorting people to come visit. http://thegallopingbeaver.blogspot.com/2009/08/brits-in-afghanistan.html You have taken the best pictures I have seen of our boys and girls in Afghanistan.
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    Josh · 10 years ago
    just wanted to say thanks for putting up such a terrific site. the men and women of the british army fully deserve the recognition you afford them.
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    COUNTRY · 10 years ago
    Thank you from the Pedros' on that flight 23 july. We enjoy working aside each one of you and WILL come in Guns A Blazing anytime for you guys!!!
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    Willie Mohan · 10 years ago
    Re the so called retreat from Basra. Nothing could be further from the truth. The decision to pull out was of course the work of our Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The Rifles who were the last battalion to pull out had beaten anyone who had come up against them. I am afraid it was as usual the craven and subjective media hounds who decided to call it a retreat and cast doubts on the quality of our troops. But as is well documented we have a Prime Minister who has spent his entire tenure as such,in denying the Armed Forces of the UK the resources they so badly need. Our Armed Forces are fighting in Afghanistan in order to protect the way of life we in the west take for granted and so our thoughts and best wishes go to all the Allied Forces in the Ghan. And it is gratifying to see the kind thoughts and generous comments posted from the USA which has been the bedrock and shield of our way of life for over 60 years and does not get the praise and gratitude it so richley deserves. PS I, unfortunately cannot agrue about the Royal Navy's debacle, the only good thing to come out of it was the committement to sink any Iranian vessel that came within spitting distance, but still the incident brought shame on all who hold the Navy in high regard. So keep up the good work Michael this old ex Para finds your reports not only incisive but also a great living picture of the boys doing the business.
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    Meg Barker · 10 years ago
    My son is in this coy and was with you on this patrol. I just wanted to say thank you Michael for a wonderful insight into what my son does on these patrols. He said you took lots of photos and I would love to view all these. Try and spot my son! Thank you again Michael. Meg
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    barbara jayne willia · 10 years ago
    looking through your photos i spotted my daughter cpl chelsea williams rifles 2. i was shocked to see her in action. shes been out there 6 months. im so very proud of her. shes home in a few days where she will b safe. some times i just wish she was a hairdresser , im so proud to have her as my daughter
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    pattie marsh · 10 years ago
    Thank you for the article it means so much to those of us at home who can only pray and watch for a chance to see our loved ones on the computer, I cannot imagine what they go through but you certainly helped .God Bless you for what you do. Pattie

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