Michael's Dispatches

The AfterWar


8 December 2011

2011-09-10-202129cc10004-4 Cav on Mission in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

The Soldiers were on a mission.  One day had become the next and they had moved into an Afghan family compound until the morning.  The moon crept along, shadows tracing arcs, the shine so strong it caused one to wonder if photosynthesis might still be occurring.  Tonight, in Florida, the mockingbirds would sing beautifully through the night, perched on the branches, searching for mates, as they do under such moons.

This was enemy territory.  Soldiers stood under a tree.   A dim headlamp splashed blood red under the leaves, creating a fleeting, accidental art.


Steadiness for these photographs came from putting the camera on the ground, or on the mud chicken coop, or on the roof.  The camera’s dim red light appears bright from long exposure.  Normally, the light is hidden with thick tape to cover any signature.  Behind the compound walls, safe from enemy eyes, the tape is removed.  While the light burns, a moment in history is being captured.  When the light vanishes another memory is sealed.


A handful of Soldiers stood at the walls while others slept.  Family homes are ensconced within strong, defensible fortifications.  When you fly far out over a desert, away from the villages, and look down and see a single home miles from any other, it will still be surrounded by walls.  For Afghans, there is no emergency 911 to call.  Every man must defend his own.

Afghanistan is the Mud Empire.  The Land of a Million Alamos, where East meets West, Old meets New, and where in many villages clocks are little more than spinning wheels.


The Air Force JTACs and TACPs earn every penny of their checks.  Their job is crucial and clear.  They come on dangerous missions to coordinate air power.  In the west our jobs are specialized while villagers here mostly have no specialties.  They are farmers, and farmers around the world tend to be conservative people.  Farmers with wild ideas sooner or later will starve.


There were raisins on the roof.  Afghan grapes and sun-dried raisins are of a special class.  In some areas the grapes seem average, but in others the grapes are so delicious and sweet that they seem almost noble.  These grapes bring out the art in fruit.

The famers here grow many crops, such as corn, sunflowers, marijuana, and poppy for opium.  Last week in Australia, a huge shipment of heroin mixed with raisins was seized.  It’s possible that some of those products came from this village.  For all of Australia’s efforts in blood and money to stabilize Afghanistan, they get drug smuggling in return.  The Australians say that heroin use is on the rise due in part to increased production in Afghanistan.


This interesting little camera lens makes it appear that the camera is down in a well.


The Air Force comms were established in the event air strikes would be needed, and finally one man has a smoke, safely out of view of the enemy.  Though we were out of view of the enemy, nowhere in this compound was safe from enemy fire.  Sometimes they lob grenades into the compounds, or fire RPGs or recoilless rifles.


The minutes roll by.  Most everyone is asleep on the ground.  We are on the roof with the raisins and the drying stalks of opium poppy.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Rob · 8 years ago
    It took me 8 months to find a solid job when I got out. I have a four year degree and still it didn't get me much besides offers from shady door to door sales companies. I got lucky and had a friend outside of the military who got me a job. I worked with the VA and unemployment to find a job and they were practically useless. I just lucked out with a good friend. Good luck to others out there.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    A&N · 8 years ago
    I thought Obama was putting returning Military men at the top of the list for jobs...oh wait...I forgot...he lies.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Kel · 8 years ago
      [quote name="A&N"]I thought Obama was putting returning Military men at the top of the list for jobs...oh wait...I forgot...he lies.[/quote]

      *shakes head in agreement*
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Ryden · 8 years ago
        Can't we drop the politics at least here? This isn't really what the dispatches are about, but rather about the men featured in them. There's a time and place for everything.
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Dean · 8 years ago
          Politics impacts returning war veterans, like it or not, Mr. Ryden. The man at the helm has not done much for us.
          • This commment is unpublished.
            Ryden · 8 years ago
            That politics have some impact on veterans is something that I'm not disputing. What I'm asking is that the debate is dropped before it begins, since it is likely to derail into a Internet-fight containing little other than shit being thrown in both directions. Is that really what matters? As I wrote, there's a time and place for everyting. I don't think this is neither for people to throw shit at each other.

            This dispatch is a warning about what is already facing veterans, and what will face even more after the wars are over. It will not be pretty, no matter who is in the White House.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Russ · 8 years ago
      Wake up. They all lie. It's their job. 41 years ago I came home from VN with the same expectations. We were scorned as baby killers and spit apon for our service. Take what you get and move on with your life. Use your VA benefits and go to school, eventially someone will come looking for people with your skills, It took me five years. This system works.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Glenn A Warren · 8 years ago
        If you use your VA benefits for school, consider technical and or business disciplines. When the stagnation of the current economic and political policies are unleashed, this country will need rebuilding and redeveloping. Having engineering, computer or other scientific skills along with the ability to communicate ideas and contribute to the development of a business will enable you to contribute to wealth creation, which will be highly desirable to employers. Or better yet, look for a cultural want or need and start a business. Just watch out for the many layers of government regulation which may feel like the weight of body armor and a full pack while you are trying to get something started. God bless all you vets, I thank you for your service. Best Wishes,from an old entrepreneurial engineer.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Max · 8 years ago
    Amazing photography and chronicle of the soldiers life. Thank you so much for bringing the soldiers story to us. You make it live.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Clarissa · 8 years ago
    where are the JOBS.for are military.they put there life's on the line for us.now please help these men& woman. :sad:
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Philpot · 8 years ago
    Another great dispatch, Mr. Yon. Seeing our warriors doing the mundane, routine tasks that are required just to make movements and be ready for anything that hits them makes my job here in the states seem to be the God-send that it is. I do my job every day here in peace and without fear because they do their job every day there.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Brandy · 8 years ago
    For more disgraceful neglect of our heroes: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/12/08/air-force-criticized-in-handling-troop-remains/

    America must change. Our Founding Fathers are rolling in their graves right now. It's long past time for some accountability. Our troops risk their lives to either be thrown in a dumpster or unemployed when they leave service. Disgraceful. Utterly disgraceful.

    Mr. Yon, thank you for this coverage. I'm delighted to hear that you have accepted another embed in Afghanistan.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Matt · 8 years ago
    It is a tragedy that so many of these heroes will come home to a jobless bankrupt country broken by corrupt politicians in DC. But seeing the bravery and professionalism of these men and women gives me hope that they will play a part in lifting our country back out of the gutter. We desperately need heroes these days.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank · 8 years ago
    Drop the politics?? That's what these dam wars have been about. Our men loose their lives because of the present Administration's Guidelines on Rules of Engagement! We need out of the Middle East! The war is in our backyard. The Middle East is a diversion!
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Ryden · 8 years ago
      Yes of course, wars are about politics. However, my point is that Yon's dispatches are not written from the strategical views of the war as much as from the Infantry's view of it, and politics is the least of their worries. Granted, politics will have an impact on the lifes of the veterans when they come home, but that's not really the point in this dispatch. Why I think we'd better leave the political discussions out of it for now is because they tend to derail into fights where people lose focus what matters in the dispatch. It usually ends up with lots and lots of "Obama is incompetent", "Bush is a war criminal", "Obama hates the troops", "Republicans are evil", etc. It is far from constructive and mature.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        SGT Medley · 8 years ago
        I'd say you should drop it Mr. Ryden. These guys are vets and they are expressing their opinion. I happen to agree with them, and you obviously disagree. Leave it at that.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Lisa · 8 years ago
    Frank...Afghanistan isn't in the Middle East. I agree with you on the ROE though..for both this and the previous Administration. COIN and the limitations associated with that strategy began in Iraq quite a few years ago...

    I can't wait until the day that these men and women take leadership positions in our country.

    My sons have fought (and are still fighting) for her and deserve better than what they will come home to. They also deserve a nation that actually pays attention and knows that they've been fighting.

    I would be very surprised if 10% of our nation's citizens could find Afghanistan on a globe. I'd bet of that 10%, the majority would be in the service or have family members who have served or are serving. That needs to change or we have dishonored the sacrifices of too many.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    EOD DAD · 8 years ago
    I'm not seeing it. I have the oportunity to come in contact with a number of returning vets. I think for the most part employers prefer vets. They have discipline, a strong work ethic and a can do attitude. Generally better mannered and there's no downside. That being said there are a number of them that were lazy POS before they went in and will be when they return. There are always some losers who even the military can't fix. you'l be seeing them on the street corners and in the media bitching. they would have been there all along. There are no excuses for being a loser, the good men and women come back stronger. The others are what they would have been anyway.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Peter · 8 years ago
    Yes, it is something for most soldiers coming back from combat. Re-integration into civilized society after the horrors of war can be mind boggling and numbing. Drugs is not the way--lets decide that. Our hope our soldiers will feel more respect for their service this time around. It seems like that is happening!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    AM · 8 years ago
    In regards to helping our troops to stay warm? Would mylar blankets and bags be beneficial for the troops? They claim to retain 80-90% of your body heat. They are lightweight, cheap to buy, cheap to mail. I have never used them though they are in my emergency bag.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Matt · 8 years ago
      Good point. I put one down in the bottom of my hammock and I can comfortably sleep in the woods even this time of year (north GA). Small and only a few oz. I guess one problem in a combat zone would be the reflectivity.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MacvTm19 · 8 years ago
    Spent two tours in Nam fighting against communism, little did I know that some 40 years later I would be fighting communism in my own country !!!!!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    pistris · 8 years ago
    I am a combat veteran and an employer. I would prefer to hire vets and especially former spec ops people. We understand each other much better. If they are smart, combined with the work ethic that most have is hard to find. Anyone know of a place an employer can go to advertise or find specific vets?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dan · 8 years ago
    Mike I'm not sure where you got your statistics on numbers of suicides each day - but that number MUST include ALL branches of the service, Active Duty, Retired, and Guard/Reservists. I find it VERY high - That's 5,840 per year - the Army has documented only 261 suicide deaths this CY leaving nearly 5,580 for all the rest of the services and all those who ever served on active duty since Korean War - it's not totally impossible, but I find the numbers hard to believe in. Any suicide death is tragic and needless - and I totally agree with every other thing you pointed out. Just would like to know your source for the number of suicides per day by veterans.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bob Baird · 8 years ago
    Here's another small item to think about, PC not, We knew where the drone was, intact, and had several options to destroy it. The CIC said, NO, might be seen as an act of war. So...the Iranians, Russians, Chinise, etc, etc, now have acsess to our most valuable intel drone. Reported today. Seen it on NBC yet?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Ryden · 8 years ago
      Maybe the value of the drone was simply deemed less than the cost of engaging Iran in an act of war? I mean, they fly very high up in the air, so I really doubt it could've crashed very smoothly. Keep in mind that it's around a week since it crashed, leaving the Iranians plenty of time to build a mock-up of it to support their version of how it went down (that they really did hack into it and landed it).
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jack E. Hammond · 8 years ago
    This is one malpractice that has not ceased; after the Grenada
    operation the Army alone saw fit to issue 8612 decorations
    (including more than 170 medals for valor) even though there were
    never more than 7000 on the island. There is a very old wisdom: Leadership is not
    based on being clever; it is based primarily on being consistent."

    'Leadership: More Doing Than Dash', by Prof Peter F. Drucker in a WSJ
    column Jan 6th 88 page 16.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Chuck Peterson · 8 years ago
    I laughed when I read the bit about those in active service who are "PX Rangers", etc., by wearing non-awarded awards. When I was going through BNCOC, on the first day the Small Group Leader walked in wearing Old Abe on his right shoulder, along with a CIB. Having served with the 101st in DS/DS I asked what unit he served with, he said 1/502nd INF, then asked him what company, and he said Bravo, and he said he got his CIB when he and that unit went to Panama. At that point I called his BS in front of the group, because I served in that same unit at the same time, and we had just started block leave the day the invasion kicked off. He didn't appreciate that of course. I still regret not approaching the Commandant about that, but at the time I didn't for whatever reason that escapes me now...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dasie · 8 years ago
    These picture are not as horrifying as the other ones i saw on this web-site, without blood and wounded soldiers. The name says for itself "The AfterWar"
    [removed by webmaster]
  • This commment is unpublished.
    jerry · 8 years ago
    My son recently got a job after resigning his commission as a Captain in the Army. Four and 1/2 years in the Army and one tour in Afghan. He and his wife moved 10 hours away from our home for the job. Vets: utilize your benefits; stay positive and thanks from the bottom of my heart for your service.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JudgeRight · 7 years ago
    Liberals believe everyone should get a college degree, thus they are expensive to acquire and cheap to employ. I recommend returning vets use their benefits to get trained in a trade. Something along the lines of heating/ventilation/air conditioning or nursing or some such. Your proven ability plus proper training in their specific service makes you a preferred resource. Pick something that interests you and start saving as early and as much as you can. The sooner you can start your own business the sooner you can write your own rules and choose your own path. That is still the essence of America and the greatest part of our founders' legacy. If any of you are well up the path of a legal career or have obtained some name recognition, America needs you in office to represent her founding ideals. History has been revisited and common sense is educated out of the more and more common college graduate. Read the founders' written works and letters. Learn who they were from them because everything I ever learned about them was a lie. All of us have to know policy and consequence, so study who and when and how and why and bring that knowledge into service inside the electoral body.
  • This commment is unpublished.
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    Felipa · 1 years ago
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