122 Comments

Market Garden

A Remembrance During Time of War

Published: 12 October 2009 from Nargarkot, Nepal

 

Kandahar City, Afghanistan

Slowly, surely, the city is being strangled.  Signaling the depth of our commitment, security forces are thinner in Kandahar than the Himalayan air.  During the days and evenings, there were the sounds of occasional bombs—some caused by suicide attackers, and others by firefights.  The windows in my room had been blown out recently and now were replaced.  We came here to kill our enemies, but today we want to make a country from scratch.

A world away from Afghanistan, over in Holland, was approaching the 65th anniversary of the allied liberation from Nazi occupation, and I had been invited to attend by James “Maggie” Megellas.  Maggie, who had fought his way through Holland and is today remembered there as a hero, is said to be the most decorated officer in the history of the 82nd Airborne Division.  Now 92, Maggie has recently spent about two months tooling around the battlefields of Afghanistan, and though it would be an honor to finally meet him, there was the matter of extracting myself from Kandahar City and getting through about forty minutes of dangerous territory to the military base at Kandahar Airfield.

 

And so a friend and I donned local garb and loaded into the car.

Criminals and Taliban were on the lookout for westerners to kidnap, and unknown to us an intelligence report had just been issued that men in a stolen Toyota Corolla were on the prowl in Kandahar City.

The camera was mostly kept down but occasionally I lifted for quick shots.  Kandahar City, like other main Afghan cities, belies the fact that most Afghans will never have one minute of electricity, nor will they ever see a westerner.

Afghan police love to jet around at high speeds in their trucks, often with powerful machine guns mounted on back.

Shortly after this photo was taken, my friend, who had been a South African cop for 16 years, spotted two men in a white Toyota Corolla who had locked onto us.  They drove swiftly by for a look-see, then hit a Y intersection ahead on the right.  They tried to get back in, but traffic slowed them by about ten seconds.  I was watching over my shoulder when they dangerously bolted back into the traffic a couple hundred meters behind us.  The camera was on the floorboard.  I had picked up a pistol and rested it on my right thigh.  My friend rolled down his window and I rolled down mine.  They were moving in.  In less than a minute, someone probably would die.  The car was speeding closer when per chance a green Afghan police pickup rocketed by the pursuers.  The green police truck was mounted with a machine gun, and a long belt of ammo was dangling, while a policeman kept his hands on the gun.  I hid the pistol.  The pursuers slowed.  We continued at about 40mph as the police swooshed by.  The police pulled off the road a few hundred meters ahead of us and the white car fell back more, until it passed the police and began to speed up, but that was it.  The pursuers were caught behind too many trucks and fell away.  I put down the pistol and picked up the camera.

None of the paved roads in Afghanistan were built by Afghan vision with Afghan resources.  If not for the many foreign invaders, this land would be road-and runway-free.

An American convoy of MRAPs approached from the front and a soldier in the lead vehicle shot a pen-flare, causing everyone to pull off the road.  The convoys are more menacing from the outside and in fact I kept the camera down and this is exactly why Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is concerned about adding too many troops.  Can’t argue with his reasoning; convoys and troops truly are menacing despite that U.S. and British soldiers are very disciplined.  It must look far worse to Afghans.  Most Afghans never talk with foreign soldiers and those who do normally only see us in passing.  In fact, most soldiers never leave base.  Our forces at KAF (Kandahar Airfield) have a base so large that this commercial jet is about to land there after flying dangerously over this unsecured road.

After arriving at Kandahar Airfield, the Dutch Air Force took me, and long after midnight we boarded a Canadian C-130 and flew to Dubai.

From Dubai, the Dutch soldiers got onto a chartered flight to Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Over the Arabian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, skirting Iraq.

Finally into Holland, we landed at the Dutch Air Force Base at Eindhoven, where families and others were waiting for Dutch soldiers.  Someone shoved a rose and a gift into my hand and I smiled, protesting that I am only a writer, and tried unsuccessfully to return the rose and the gift.

There was a short taxi ride to the hotel.

And right there in the lobby was a throng of World War II veterans whose first trips to Europe had been either under parachute into combat, or by gliders into combat.  (As would be revealed over the next five days.)  So I sat down with Guadelupe Flores because he was sitting alone while people crowded around other vets.  His grandson Matt came over.  I hadn’t even fully checked in yet.  Guadelupe said he was from Texas originally but now lived in Ohio, and he’d just arrived.  “Did you parachute in this time?” I asked.  Guadelupe only chuckled, “Not this time,” and chuckled some more.  Please have a look at Guadelupe’s left eye.  This is the last picture before he got the black eye, which is a funny story.  (Guadelupe was on the Army boxing team, he would later say.)

Maggie Megellas was there along with a large group of American university students who had broken off with small groups of veterans.  A man said that General Petraeus’ staff was here and General Petraeus was coming to stay at the same hotel.

Finally I got to the room and there was an email from Afghanistan:

I've heard we had to be on the lookout for a group of kidnappers, targeting expats in Kandahar. Apparently they are using a stolen white Toyota Corolla station wagon and a red Toyota Surf. Wonder if we “met” them yesterday?

Actually there had been two suspected vehicles that seemed like they might be working together, but I didn’t mention the second vehicle.  Every day in the war is a close call.

The Market Garden remembrance was to begin in the morning.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mark · 9 years ago
    Michael - Thanks for the superb piece - it seemed like I was there.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott from TX · 9 years ago
    i always get sucked in to the photos and story that you put together. nothing like the adrenaline rush of being a westerner driving through Kandahar with a Corolla on the loose.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Johnathan Crawford · 9 years ago
    Thanks Michael,

    What a pleasant surprise this essay was. Your pictures are worth 1,000 words!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JC · 9 years ago
    Great report, not too far from the bridge this time then. I am following you on twitter too. We need people like you reporting from the heart of things, even if maybe you get too close but that compensate from those who do it from the terrace of the Hilton and you know what I mean.
    Take care.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Austen · 9 years ago
    Brilliant - keep up the excellent work.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Salgofnir · 9 years ago
    Another good report. Stay safe.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Joseph Bays ICCSSS, · 9 years ago
    A great picture story. I never knew the Dutch remembered, although some of Europe seems to have forgotten.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Nathaniel · 9 years ago
    great pics as always!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Eddy · 9 years ago
    Thanks Michael, this was a great dispatch, and in no way too long. I appreciate you taking the time to detail all the cereomonies and events, it's hard to imagine us here in the United States putting up so much effort to honor our vets, much less those of another country. A grim reminder of how much we take for granted. And please stay safe in Afghanistan, the start of your dispatch scared the crap out of me, I don't know how I'd get my frontline news without you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Robin · 9 years ago
    Whoa! It's really almost creepy, you were all over the place. In fact, you went to the place where I live and even the school I go to. Crazy!

    As always, you take pretty awesome photos.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pat · 9 years ago
    Thank you sir for what you are doing. Bringing to our homes what really happens out there and giving us the chance to see pictures and realize there are many out there who do appreciate our military and what America has done and continues to do in spreading freedom. Seeing the pictures of all the vets reminds me of my neighbor who was in the Air Force in both WWII and Korea. I always enjoy having conversations with him. I can only imagine how you felt being surrounded by all those incredible veterans and hearing their stories. It was also great that you got some pics of soldiers who were able to make it to the ceremonies as well. Keep up the great work sir!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Allen · 9 years ago
    Michael -

    Great, great, great dispatch. You're work is so refreshing. I get emotional just reading and remembering these vets.

    ~Allen
  • This commment is unpublished.
    JJT · 9 years ago
    Thank you for an excellent piece.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kevin · 9 years ago
    Outstanding work as usual, Michael!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Vincent · 9 years ago
    I have been "with you" since day one. I don't know what drives you but you are one brave, necessary reporter. Simply calling you a reporter seems so inadequate in the face of a monumental failure of war news dissemination by almost all News agencies. Stay well, Michael. We need you!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Matthew · 9 years ago
    Thank you Michael! You always seem to make it to the most interesting places! I must make it to a Market-Garden event one day, before all of our old warriors are gone.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    winston · 9 years ago
    Excellent reporting. Beautiful photos... Good job!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    CJ · 9 years ago
    We can never forget, then as now, the incredible sacrifices of our armed men and women.

    God Bless them all, and thank you Michael for taking us along for the ride.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kiwi Chris · 9 years ago
    Thank you for this fantastic article - we never had coverage of this national tribute down here - What a fantastic honour for these fantastic soldiers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Lance McMillan · 9 years ago
    Nice bit of reporting. Thanks.

    Was a bit disappointed that there were so few indications of any recognition of the Polish commitment to Market-Garden (or to Afghanistan for that matter). Sosabowski's parachute brigade was dropped near Arnhem in an effort to help relieve the pressure on the British 1st Airborne and was decimated in the ensuing fighting, and yet I only saw one Polish flag in any of the many shots you took of the various memorials -- it's kind of sad how the service of the Polish exile troops is so consistently overlooked.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott Dudley · 9 years ago
    In 2000, I had the honor of visiting the American Cemetary there. It was on a weekday and I was surprised at the number of Dutch also visiting. They, perhaps more than any other Europeans, respect and appreciate the sacrifices our vets made. At dusk, there was a ceremonial lowering of our flag and as my friend, an Air Force officer and I stood at attention, so did all the Dutch visitors. An amazing sight. I love the Dutch.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tom Reynolds · 9 years ago
    Beautiful!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim Delaney · 9 years ago
    Splendid presentation again, Michael. Gen. P continues to bowl me over with his intellect, calm and integrity.

    Glad you're trekking into the Himalayas during your break in Nepal. You won't regret it. I and a buddy trekked to Mt. Kalipatar, overlooking Everest base camp, about 25 years ago. What a truly awesome experience. Standing alone atop Kalipatar and gazing into the daylight's black sky, only then did I realize how truly insignificant we each of us is in the universal scheme of things. At that moment I fully understood the meaning of "the silence was defeaning". Not a sound at all. Had never understood that phrase before. Utterly alone, just me, my friend and an overwhelming, almost menacing, eternity before us. It really put things into perspective for me. It was a very humbling and mind-jarring experience which will always be part of me.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewat · 9 years ago
    Y'all probably know this already, but just in case..

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_Heart_Lane
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David Paul · 9 years ago
    The goose bumps registered the quality of the report.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    wf · 9 years ago
    Wonderful dispatch Michael, thank you! It seems that Dutch children are well aware of this time in history, as they should. Why are our children not being taught any of this? We have veterans (from WWII to the present) in every city of the US and I would be willing to bet that not five of them have been asked by any school to talk to our children about what they did. We are missing the chance to show our children what honor and duty look like in person.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tim · 9 years ago
    America has always been full of hero's willing to give for the greater good, to protect the weak or needy.
    A wonderful group of hero's along with some Dutch hero's as well.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Alastair · 9 years ago
    Michael. That was a superb article which I didn't pick up on the British media really covering. Stay safe on returning to Afghan
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Robert · 9 years ago
    Are so very awesome for remembering the troops that way! Would love it if more in our country understood that. When I was scanning the article I seen where some of the Dutch soldiers want to get back in the fight, I commend them for that. I wish I could go over there and serve as a soldier. However because of a mistake I made when I was younger I am not allowed to serve. So I am working on getting job that will put me there so I can serve that way!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Julie Harris · 9 years ago
    Wonderful piece Michael - it brought tears to my eyes. Keep up the good work! Will be praying for your safety. Sincerely and with gratitude, Julie Harris
  • This commment is unpublished.
    BravoBilly · 9 years ago
    I am 3rd Army brat and a Veteran, too. So when I saw all those veterans, I became proud. Thanks Michael...You are Florida at its finest.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sandy · 9 years ago
    Michael....you've got a gift for really transporting us along with you...thanks.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Randall Hannaway · 9 years ago
    Michael,

    Thank you for covering this event, truly, thank you. It was the next best thing to being there. These men gave so much, it's vital that what they did during those grave days never be forgotten. I can't imagine the emotions that you must have felt being able to share in such a historical event. We are grateful for all of your efforts both the more enjoyable stories like this one and of course the more difficult war coverage. Keep your head down and be well.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Papajimm · 9 years ago
    I have been so pummeled with anti American bashing/demonstrations around the world that this accounting is hard to wrap my emotions around. Do you thing the Iraqis, Afghanis, Pakistanis, et. al will every be grateful for the lives and ultimate sacrifices being made to secure their democracy and resulting freedoms? Unlikely. Not the way they roll. Stay safe Michael.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gordon Duff · 9 years ago
    Great photos, great story and a great group of guys being honored.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sara Johnson · 9 years ago
    There is nowhere else I have heard nor read of this event. This post is remarkable and I'll send link to all who care so deeply of our country, its defenders and the veteran liberators for freedom. God Bless You. Keep this up. Extraordinary dispatch. Thank you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David L. · 9 years ago
    My wife's father was Dutch. He worked for Shell in Java and went back into the army as a private as soon as the Japanese attacked. He was captured by the Japanese in Java in 1942, imprisoned there for several months and then sent to Japan by Hell Ship, where he remained imprisoned until the end of the war. He is dead now but a few years ago my wife and I visited some of his and her relatives in Holland. The only place they really insisted that we go was the battleground for Market Garden. A few of my wife's relatives had been children or even young women during WW II. The gratitude and respect for what was done to liberate them was deep and heartfelt. Yet all of her Dutch relatives--completely without exception--could not fathom why our country chose to fight in Iraq. Afghanistan was never mentioned. It was eclipsed by Iraq at the time.

    Thank you for your great reporting.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jarold · 9 years ago
    Whenever I meet someone who is interested in the fight, I tell them of you and your website. Thanks for all you do, and thanks to all our vets, US, Brits, Dutch, and all others on our side. We are in this together. Mike, you get the real truth out. God Bless and Protect You.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Alan Johnson · 9 years ago
    Michael,
    As always thanks for the dispatch, and the update and pictures on the memorial services, I wish that people would realize that some people do remember the sacrifice that was made and is being made. Keep up the good work and enjoy the fresh air break.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    C. Renee Daigle · 9 years ago
    Thank you, Michael, for all that you do to keep us here at home informed.
    This post is wonderful. I was enrapt with the Dutch treatment of our veterans. They deserve all of it and more.
    Thanks again, God speed, and keep safe. You and all of our troops are in my prayers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Karl Crankshaw · 9 years ago
    Michael,

    Excellent report and pictures, Words cannot express how moved I was at the courage of the Airborne Vets and the way the Dutch people remember and honour the sacrifices that were and continue to be made for freedom.
    Stay Safe.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Thomas · 9 years ago
    But I will hit the tip jar first.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dennis Graham · 9 years ago
    Thank you Michael,
    Praise the Lord for the continueing gratitude of the Dutch people,even after all these years. Please stay safe. You are in my prayers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Philip Lewis · 9 years ago
    I'm not sure what struck me more..the vitality of the WWII veterans, the obvious affection and gratitude of the Dutch for their liberation, the odd contrast of the cornfields of Afghanistan with those of Eindhoven, the strong commitment of the Dutch to supporting foreign policy goals. Really a fine dispatch. You have a tremendous gift, both as a photographer and as a writer. Thank you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim S · 9 years ago
    Thank You.
    It was nice to read a story about Love for our Military.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MikeB · 9 years ago
    Amazing post, thank you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Hester · 9 years ago
    Great dispatch! I just wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to thank the Dutch for this wonderful remembrance. It is so heartening to know there are people who have not forgotten the sacrifices of the allied soldiers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    crosspatch · 9 years ago
    I don't know if they still do it but when I served in Europe in the late 1970's there was an annual 100 mile march that was sort of a remembrance of Market-Garden. I attended in 1978. The people were absolutely wonderful and it is an experience I will never forget. Sometimes I really miss that part of the world.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Lorenzo from Oz · 9 years ago
    Both moving and informative, thank you
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Colin Perry · 9 years ago
    It has all been said above. Brilliant....

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