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FIRST-PERSON: A Southern Baptist in Afghanistan writes home

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KABUL, Afghanistan (BP)–You can be very proud of the U.S. Military members involved in Operation Enduring Freedom. We are not only ridding Afghanistan of the remnants of al Qaida and Taliban through our operational activities but are also providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.

As a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, I am involved in the humanitarian assistance as part of the Coalition Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force. We are working to refurbish schools, rebuild bridges and roads and restore water resources such as irrigation systems and wells. My job is publicizing our activities through the media and to our internal military audience. I have six military journalists working for me to do the internal information piece.

If you spend any time out among the people of Afghanistan, which I do frequently, you quickly see the results of 23 years of war and the suppression under the Taliban. I see children going to school in bombed-out buildings.

Most students go to class in buildings with no electricity, no running water, no windows, and no desks or chairs. They sit on canvas tarps on the floor. School supplies are scarcely available. Although these conditions are not conducive to learning, the children of Afghanistan are eager students. They come up to you and say in English “Hello” and “Thank you.”

Each of the operations the Coalition forces conduct make the country a little safer and adds to the long-term stability of Afghanistan. Each of the projects that we are doing here will improve the lives of the people of Afghanistan. The U.S. Military is only here for the short-term, but hopefully the effects of our presence here will help the people of Afghanistan for the long-term and bring some stability to the government that will result in lasting change and peace.

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I know that Memorial Day is a special day to remember our flag. Last week was the first time since I’ve been in Afghanistan that I heard our National Anthem played. It sent a chill down my spine as a wave of emotion swept over me. Those Stars and Stripes definitely have a special place in the hearts and minds of service men and women. They are the reason we are here. They stand for the valor and the blood of those who have defended our country from the plains of Bunker Hill to the rough ridges of the Shah-i-Kot Mountains here in Afghanistan, for the freedom that we defend part of which is to have freedom from terrorism, and for the love of country.

So as you pause to remember our flag, please also remember the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who proudly wear it on their right sleeves in far distant lands for each of you.
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Capt. Bill Peoples is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve. His wife, Loretta, works for the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. They are members of Hermitage Hills Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: BANNER WAVING, BAGRAM BRIDGE, CHEHELTAN SCHOOL, BILL PEOPLES and SULTAN RAIZA SCHOOL.