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So things may have looked quiet here over the past couple months. But fear not, I’ve been plenty busy.

Besides writing a regular column for East Africa Flyer/Aviation East Africa, taking up some other less-war-related writing gigs (to be revealed shortly), and working as an anti-human trafficking attorney here in DC, I’ve also been pounding away on several book projects. They’re coming along well, though these things never get done as quickly as you’d like them to. Last year would’ve been nice.

I’ve also been spending a good amount of time with my dog, Puck, who is pretty much my parents’ dog at this point but still obeys me better than anyone else (just stating the facts). Went for a solo camp with him out in Shenandoah Valley last weekend. Thought I might share the photographic gem above with the world, because you can always use more huge pink dog tongue in your life.

More updates & articles coming very soon.

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For those who have been following, you’ll know who Sgt. Stacey is (left, above). He was killed this morning by an IED. He was one of the most humane and wise human beings I have ever met, and a hell of a Marine. I wrote the following on my typewriter while getting personal with a bottle of scotch this evening.

There aren’t too many Marines that I wanted to get a beer with once we were back home. I made good friends with many of them, but there weren’t more than a dozen who I really thought I’d spend time with once we’d returned to the civilized world of women and booze and concerns about what type of blinds to put on the windows. A lot of the real world doesn’t make sense out there. A lot of the things people here worry about. Try watchingReal Housewives and imagine what it looks like to a Marine just returned from their deployment. Beer makes sense though. Everyone makes plans to get a beer together once they’re back. I drank a lot of non-alcoholic Becks over there but needless to say it just ain’t the same.

Sergeant Stacey—Will, as he became once I’d returned to the States and exchanged a few emails with his mother—was one of the few I made plans with. He commanded the squad I was embedded with when I ended up in my first firefight, and it was plainer than anything that he kept the men under his command alive. I’ve already written about him, his confidence and charisma and strangely rugged wisdom for a young man of twenty-three, his ridiculous mustache, but now there is more to say because Will is dead.

Full article is here.

I will never forget him. He, and his family, deserved better than this. But with the life he had, he did something incredible, something very few people achieve with a full ninety years. So here’s to you, Will. You’re a great fucking guy.

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Returned to Washington, DC, yesterday.

It’s been an incredible month in Afghanistan. I’ve had the honor to meet, live, and work with some of the finest people in the world. Marines, Afghans, NATO soldiers and even the occasional UK government employee. These are people whose stories are riddled with courage, resilience, and faith, in the face of great danger and great privation. They make sacrifices on a daily basis that we in the ‘real’ world (as it is often called over there) never hear about, sometimes overwhelming ones, just to budge the tide of the war that little bit towards the better.

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Ended up in a firefight the other day, with sixteen Marines and an onion on my side. Thought I might write something on it.

For The Faster Times:

Kurghay, Afghanistan—We were rambling down the pass from the Bedouin’s tents when the first bullets winged by overhead. Long, drawn-out whistling sounds, almost musical, nothing like the zipI’d heard in flicks. The Sergeant thought it might be overshot fire from a couple klicks away,  aimed at a vehicle unit—Cat One—halfway between us and an insurgent position on the far side of the valley. Then Lance-Corporal Stephen Johnson, a combat cameraman a few meters behind me, piped up.

“Hey Sarge,” he said calmly, “that one landed right by my foot.”

Full article can be found here.

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Important things I learned in Kurghay:

Marines are bad for my smoking habit.

Condensation will get your sleeping bag wetter than rain.

The mangina is also known as a ‘Reverse Fruit Basket’.

Being shot at is a rush.

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For The Faster Times:

Now Zad, Afghanistan—This morning I woke up, fumbled on flip flops, rolled out of our hutch, and couldn’t see anything. I glanced at my watch. Happy Thanksgiving, Afghanistan.

A dust storm had descended on the Marines of Weapons Company, stationed in the district center of Now Zad, Helmand province. Huge pillars the color of leather rolled through the camp, one after another, cutting visibility to thirty or forty feet in the middle of them. Then the rain started, tamping the dust down and clearing the air. Our Pakistani-American translator, Yousef, raised an eyebrow at my mild delight with this change of events.

Full article can be found here.

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Playing Risk with the Marines of 2/4’s civil affairs group, or CAG (yes, BSG fans, it’s pronounced ‘cag’ and that’s awesome), in Now Zad. Kind of like playing Monopoly with I-Bankers on Wall Street.

See how I fared after the jump…

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For The Faster Times:

Now Zad, Afghanistan—Three years ago, Now Zad district center had become such a hellish warzone, so riddled with airstrikes and insurgent ambushes, that the soldiers stationed there dubbed it “Apocalypse Now Zad.” No civilians remained; coalition forces and insurgents dug into the ruins of the city and tore it to pieces in a struggle closer to trench warfare than anything seen since World War I. The damage of that battle is still visible in the shattered remains of houses that litter the city, and still seem to outnumber those that have been rebuilt.

Only in the past two years have civilians started to return. The Now Zad Comprehensive Health Center, the only medical clinic for dozens of kilometers in any direction, came with them. Operated by the non-governmental organization BRAC, under a contract to the Afghan Ministry of Health, the clinic resides in two small buildings just outside the gates of the Marines’ district headquarters. They were originally housed in a larger compound next door; the district governor ousted them when security improved enough to allow him to move off the Marines’ base.

Full article is here.

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