The end, time to go home

Published 8:09 pm Saturday, March 9, 2013

By SFC Ed Holland

My time in Afghanistan has come to a close.

I write this last column with much joy and a little sadness. As I prepare to pack my bags and downsize my belongings, I think about the success we have had.

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We have reached a milestone last month. No soldier has been killed or injured due to enemy activity in 30 days. We have accomplished a lot during my short tenure here. But we have to ask ourselves if it can be maintained? Can Afghanistan and its forces continue the mission we have started?

It is a challenge I feel they are readily prepared for. We have advised them on a plethora of things, ranging from supply of forces to plainly and simply digging in and fighting to achieve victory. We have instilled in the forces here in Afghanistan the desire and ability to secure their nation and do it for the love of country.

I leave with sadness, because I have made quite a few friends along the way — soldiers and officers from other units and members of the community. I will definitely not forget these individuals.

My interpreters, “ Zack” and “Rami,” were a joy to work with, and each has his own unique story. The guys at our bazaar, like Waheed, the best electronics salesman I have ever met. He is just a character in his own right. And who can forget Heart? He gives the best haircut I have ever seen. He was meticulous in his efforts to provide us with the best haircuts in Afghanistan.

I have to wonder about their fates. I hope and pray that they can keep going forward. “Inshallah” — if it is God’s will — they will.

I reflect on the soldiers I have here with me, and the list is really too long to type. I have been truly blessed to have these soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers to work with.

We all have grown during this deployment and have had our share of good times and bad. But through it all we have a bond that will never be broken, a bond that ties men and women together forever. We took on a mission and did it to the best of our abilities.

We all have a mutual respect for one another and a sense of pride that we accomplished the greater good over our own. We shared holidays together, the Super Bowl, the college football national championship game and numerous other events.

We also shared hard times — the vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, the suicide bomber and indirect-fire threats. But we did all of this as a team, a team of different individuals with different military occupational specialties. We came together to form what would be very formidable team to any adversary.

From the bottom of my heart, I just want to say thanks. Thanks to all the brave men and women I have had the pleasure to work with and for. But thanks also to my family and friends who supported me.

Thanks to my mother, who is not in the best of health — and me being over here doesn’t help. She is my favorite girl. I will be home soon and we can go to Walmart as usual. I miss her and love her very much.

Thanks to Randolph, the best guy I know. He has been by my mother’s side this entire time, through six deployments and more than 20 years of marriage.

Thanks to my children, Kederer and Kishera. They are the best. They make great grades. Graduation is coming up in June, and I can’t wait. Dad will be there.

Thanks to Shonya, the best woman I have known — next to my mommy, of course. She left no stone unturned. Her support and love made the hard days easy. Thanks, Shonda. I love you.

And last but not least, thanks to Res Spears, who allowed me to put my words on paper and have a release from the day-to-day activities. To see those words published was a great joy for me. I do believe we are forever tied at the hip.

In closing, I would like to say thanks to the many people who have read my columns and left comments. I hope I have made you proud. It has been an honor and a distinct privilege to serve and to protect the millions of people in the best country in the world.

Until we meet again on the other side, Bandit27N signing off. Mission complete! Air Assault, Rakkasan, Lightning Strikes!

Sgt. First Class Ed Holland, a 1989 graduate of Suffolk High School, has been in the U.S. Army for 18 years. He is on his sixth deployment, including five to Iraq and one to Afghanistan.