Michael's Dispatches

Adam Ray


18 February 2010
Kandahar, Afghanistan

On Feb. 9th, in a field near a road, an Afghan soldier squatted to relieve himself.  He picked the wrong spot. A bomb exploded, blowing off a leg, and he died.  Captain John Weatherly, Commander of Charlie Company of the 4-23 Infantry at FOB Price in Helmand Province, mentioned that in passing as he described the series of events that led to the death of Specialist – now Sergeant – Adam Ray, a vigorous 23 year old, born in Tampa, Florida.  The bomb the Afghan stumbled upon was near the IED that struck Adam.

Without the thousands of culverts underneath, the roads of Afghanistan would be flooded and washed away during the snow melts and rains.  In safe countries, drivers pay as little attention to culverts as we would to telephone poles.  As a practical matter they are invisible to us.

In the war zone that is Afghanistan, life and limb depend on noticing normally mundane things like culverts.  They are a favorite hiding spot for the Taliban to plant bombs intended to kill Americans driving the roads.  Hundreds, even thousands of pounds of explosives can be stuffed inside, launching our vehicles into the sky, flipping them over and over, sometimes killing all.  And so, in some areas, soldiers on missions must stop dozens of times to check culverts for explosives.  Since we do this every day in front of thousands of Afghans, they know our patterns.  In addition to planting bombs in culverts, they plant mines and other bombs near culverts, to get men who stop to check.

The U.S. military has been taking inventory of the culverts, identifying their exact locations, and documenting them with photos and maps.  The military has embarked on a program to place barriers on culverts over which our troops cross on any regular basis.  The enemy tries to remove or circumvent the barriers, and so night and day we have SKTs (Small Kill Teams) who move from place to place watching culverts.  The SKTs frequently call fire that kills men who come to place bombs.  When more enemy comes to collect the bodies, we kill them, too.  But the SKTs can’t be everywhere all the time, and so this wily adversary lands hard blows every day.

The main route west from Kandahar is Highway 1, the jugular for ground transport in Afghanistan, which also connects to major cities like Kabul.  Donor nations have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to construct and attempt to safeguard this crucial passageway.  Yet the enemy is always there, leaving convoys smoldering and bullet-riddled bodies slumped over steering wheels or crumpled on the road.

Between Kandahar and just east of FOB Tombstone most of the culverts have been blocked with obstacles such as concertina razor wire, yet ten remained open.

And so on Tuesday, 9 February 2010, Charlie Company from the 4th Battalion 23rd Infantry of the 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Fort Lewis, headed out to conduct “culvert denial.”  The Soldiers know the risks of approaching the culverts, yet they do it anyway.

Staff Sergeant Christine Jones from the 4th Combat Camera Squadron was along on the mission.  Company Commander Captain John Weatherly was away at a meeting when 3rd Platoon arrived west of Maiwand, just off the south side of Highway 1, near the village of Yakhchal, a Taliban stronghold.

The unreleased combat photos show that the morning was clear and bright.  Soldiers can be seen unwinding concertina wire at the mouth of one side of the culvert.  Specialist Adam Ray walks across the road to the other side of the culvert, down in the drainage area, and a photo catches dust in the air.  A flock of birds can be seen taking flight.  The meta-data on the image indicates it was 9:30 AM.  A white 4-door car sped away, over the culvert, and Sergeant Jones quickly snapped to get the plate.  Subsequent investigations indicated the car was not involved.  The soldiers’ discipline speaks for itself; nobody shot at it.

Adam Ray was among the three soldiers who had been wounded by the small explosion.  Captain Weatherly got the radio call and headed over, as did Army medevac helicopters.  Adam’s feet and legs were fine; the explosive was buried higher up, near the road at the side of the culvert.  He had been hit in the neck. The other two soldiers had arm wounds that were not severe.  Despite the danger of more bombs, the photos show soldiers and medics diving straight in to help.  Adam was patched and put onto a litter, and soon an Army helicopter with a red cross landed in the dust.  The wounded were loaded and flown to Camp Bastion where Adam Ray, the third of five children, beloved son of a minister and a devoted mother, a soccer player and a flirt, who tutored dyslexic kids and was known to ask less popular girls to dance at school events, died.  He was 23 years old.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Adamson · 12 years ago
    I am broken hearted for Adams family and their loss and also for the loss to the USA, these fine young men and women represent everthing that is best about America and the families that raise them.
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    staghounds · 12 years ago
    Thank you for telling this story. It illuminates just one tiny aspect of the fight, as well as honoring Sgt. Ray.

    A question- what was the Afghan soldier's name?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Barbara Gibbs · 12 years ago
    His name was THE ENEMY. God bless the families of those who have given their lives and those who still serve.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Wes · 12 years ago
    Thanks for keeping the cost of this war real and in the forefront of our minds...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim Boyd · 12 years ago
    Thank you, Michael Yon, for treating this oft repeated situation with sensitivity.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Susan Buedel · 12 years ago
    God be with Adams family and give them strength and peace, I know they would trade anything to hold their son once more. I get the DOD reports every day and reading about the day he gave his life he became all of them. My heart breaks for the price the free world pays to defeat this enemy.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    mwfair · 12 years ago
    The way I read the dispatch, the killed Afghan soldier was not the enemy, but rather THE ALLY.

    Thanks for the dispatch. It is priceless to be able to gain a specific understanding of what our soldiers are doing and what they go through every day. The stories of big engagements or crises are important also, but I think it is even more important for us back home to be able to visualize the day-to-day activities of our warfighters, and to realize that the war is on everyday for them.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David M · 12 years ago
    This article/post has been trackbacked and linked at The Thunder Run

    Adam Ray - By Michael Yon
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kathy DiSanto · 12 years ago
    Praying God will comfort Adam's family and comrades. Praying for the safety of all our brave troops - and you, too, Michael. Thank you for representing our warriors and telling their stories. God bless them, every one.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Trevor · 12 years ago
    With a comment like that you've never seen combat, you have ally's and you have enemy's, they can look and act the same, but thier belief's are different. The afgan soilder that was killed was a loss for America, he was not an enemy but a mission partner, someone just like you who want's a safe life for his family and freinds - if someone wanting to live a day without fear of gunshot and reprisal is killed fighting for thier freedoms, it is a loss for us, and he was not the enemy.

    Hoorah Adam - Godspeed
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sherie Martin · 12 years ago
    Thank you for telling it like it is. My prayers go out to all of the families involved.
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    Steve Ball · 12 years ago
    I worked with the men of Charlie Company 4/2 rd 40 years ago in Vietnam as a Scout Dog Handler. I am always saddened when I read of the death of one of our troops, but the death of Sgt. Adams a member of this fine unit that once watched my back I find particularly heartbreaking.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mary · 12 years ago
    God Bless Adam.
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    Terry Frakes · 12 years ago
    It is good to have someone like you in Afghanistan with the troops to send bulletins like this out. It is especially difficult for me to read because my son is in the Army in Afghanistan. I don't read as much about it as I read about Iraq - I don't need the reminders of how dangerous it is and how quickly my life could change from having a son in the Army to having a son in a grave. It is, however, essential that people in general are reminded that we are at war, and the war is against terror and terrorists; that those people, in general, want Americans and America dead. Sadly, Americans are war-weary and tired of hearing about it. Thank you for continuing to provide the message....just in case anyone reads.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kevin Mahoney · 12 years ago
    Ray man, we had some pretty good times. You truely were a Prince. If everybody in this world had a little more Adam Ray in them, well I think that everyone that knew him knows that it would be a much better place. You were always down for anything, non judgemental and always had that look on your face. You never put yourself ahead of anyone else and never thought that you were better than them. Well guess what bro, you were. Adam Ray the Prince. You should start trying to get the story on JFK for me and try to loosen up that tight ass James Dean a little bit, I'm pretty sure you're chillin with him right now. Thanks for being who you were Adam, and standing up for the stuff that you did. It's just so weird that you're gone.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jean · 12 years ago
    Thank you Michael for all you do and GOD BLESS our men and women.Like I've said Thank You never seems to be enough.To Adam GOD BLESS you and rest in GOD'S LOVING ARMS my prayers and thoughts are with your family and I thank them too for the sacrifices they have made.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kevin Mahoney · 12 years ago
    That and I didn't know you played soccer MoFo. We could have been doing that instead of trying to play guitar when we had too much to drink. Next time kid.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    jean kiger · 12 years ago
    thank you for putting a name to our military in Afghanistan. So often the media never takes the time to honor our military and their williness to serve our country. May God be with the family of Adam Ray as they grieve the loss of their beloved son Adam. I thank you for your story here and just wish the American people would take the time to care more about our military.
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    Armand · 12 years ago
    After a regular day at work, I go home and relax in a comfortable home. These soldiers are at war 24/7 and can never let their guard down. May they receive our admiration, gratitude and prayers.
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    AFSister · 12 years ago
    Godspeed, indeed.

    And Barbara... you need to re-read the post. The Afghan killed was on patrol with our guys. Yes, there are cases of Afghan and Iraqi soldiers and police turning against us, but not all. As Trevor said, his death was a loss for America too.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jenny · 12 years ago
    God Bless the peace loving people of this world. We are so fortunate that people like Adam and our Afghan Brother are so brave and willing to fight for our freedom. God, please comfort their families, friends and comrades and continue to protect the troops that carry on. They are all in our thoughts and prayers, as we hope that one day soon this nightmare will be over.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dan Nightingale · 12 years ago
    Thank you for the story. A very dear friend of mine from high school lost her son in combat in the Helmand Province on 26 Sep, 2009. The grief and the outpouring of love for this fine young man who was a Marine, a Warrior, a Son, a Brother and a Husband have changed my life forever. Rest in Peace Adam...and Jordan and all the other Brave Warriors who've gone before and those who shall no doubt follow. The world is a better place becasue of you and now you call Heaven home. May God be with your families as they adjust to your earthly absence.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Warren Harris · 12 years ago
    There is no joy in Tampa as we mourn the lost of a fine young man who died way too soon. Our hearts are broken. No more war. No more blood. Now more dead young people. But as long as there are those corwardly bastards willing to kill innocent women and children, we are grateful to the men and women who stand up and oppose them. de oppresso libre
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Lee · 12 years ago
    Semper Fi, Soldier
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    TexMarine2254 · 12 years ago
    Godspeed and Semper Fi Adam. Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.
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    travis/colorado · 12 years ago
    to all that have served thank you and god be with you
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    Sara Johnson · 12 years ago
    Thank the Lord for these Brave young men and women, and the families who sacrifice so much. Prayers for Adam and his family. Prayers of thanks, Mr. Yon.
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    George · 12 years ago
    I wish our enemies would read these posts to get a glimpse into what the real fabric of our country is all about. Thanks Michael for telling this story. My deepest sympathy to Adam's family and friends. I wish I had the honor to have known him personally. And to those who are reading, thank you for your service.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jill Stephenson · 12 years ago
    Today marks seven months since my only child died as a result of wounds sustained in southern Helmand Province. Here I sit reading another story that brings tears for my own loss and for the loss of another brave, young soldier. Reading the comments of those who knew Adam continues to validate the selflessness of our soldiers and the inspiration they shared with all who knew and loved them. I know first hand the effect my sons death has on his brothers in arms. It has been made clear to me that he will NEVER be forgotten and seven short months later, I have no doubts. I am forever grateful and indebted to those who are willing to fight for my freedoms everyday AND to Michael Yon who does the same to stand next to them and keep us informed. I pray and pray and pray for ALL of them to find they power they seek to accomplish the tasks at hand and for them to know that prayers are offered every minute by the masses for ALL of their protection and safety.

    "He which hath no stomach to this fight let him depart. But, we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers! For he, today, that sheds his blood with me, shall always be my brother." Wm Shakespeare

    Thank God for those willing to fight and heartfelt gratitude for those who lose their brothers (and sisters). They will not be forgotten.
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    Army Dad · 12 years ago
    My son is currently serving, training national soldiers with the skills to defend their own homes. I couldn't be more proud of his character, the kind that leads great young men and women who could chase any career they desire, to choose to fight for the freedom of those who can not defend themselves. We in the Army family STILL hear great news of Afghan and Iraqi families who know and appreciate the gift our warriors are giving them. Shame on the mainstream media for ignoring it. My prayers, and far too inadequate thanks, are with Adam's family.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sue Clayton · 12 years ago
    My heart goes out to the American forces in Afghanistan and the horrible conditions in which our soldiers must live and fight in to protect those in foreign countries who want oppose our forces. America needs to take the attitude to win this conflict and win it now using all of our powers rather than drag it on having anothe Vietnam in History our textbooks. Turn our Mariines lose, let them fight to win, give them the equipment, relax the rules of engagement and lets get this thing over with and bring our guys back home.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Diane McNally · 12 years ago
    God Bless you Adam. Thank you for painting a picture of who Adam was as a man and a soldier. Please, God, Bless all of our men in combat, especially in Afghanistan. Help the 4-2 every day they are in harms way. Bring them home safely, soon.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Hollingsworth · 12 years ago
    My heart goes out to the family of this brave young man. My sincere gratitude to him and those like him , who do not shirk from their duty to protect this country of ours.
    I too was in the Marines. My father was career Army, Ist Division Seargents Major back in the late 50's. I do understand and honor the service and commitment of such brave young men
    and women. My heartfelt thanks and deep respect to them all. When will America wake up to the threat from abroad to kill our country , its people and our way of life??? We are in this to the end,
    and the bad guys will keep coming until we show them once and for all we will never say die. we will never stop in our efforts to kill every last one of them. This will be a fight for our country's very survival
    as we know it. We all need to do our part to support our valiant soldiers , God bless them all !! We also need a Commander-In -Chief who truly understands his responsibility and aggressively pursues the bad guys ,
    with no apology. That is his number 1 job. Thankyou to the writer of this article.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Matt Everhart · 12 years ago
    ...POUND SAND, lady!

    The Afghan Soldier was fighting for his country alongside American soldiers and gave his life for what he believed in. How dare you belittle his sacrafice!

    God's Speed, SPC Ray.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bob T - Colorado · 12 years ago
    I read the story about Adam Ray, a true hero. May his Mother and Father find peace in God's love for their loss. You will see Adam him again.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Tyler · 12 years ago
    We are dimished with the passing of Adam and all the other brave warriors who put their lives in harm's way on our behalf. I dis not know Adam nor do I know most of the troops but as a veteran of 22 years of service, I fel te pain as another member joins the brotherhood of the fallen. Let us never forget the sacrifice they made. Rest in God my brother!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tom Crook · 12 years ago
    And my heart goes out to you Jill for your loss. May God bless and keep you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    R. C. · 12 years ago
    For Barbara Gibbs and others, the Afghan soldier, a part of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) comprised of the Army, Police, and Border Police are not the enemies, they are in fact the mission. The reason that this young trooper was with the Afghan soldier is because he was partnering with them. Partnering U.S. and Afghan units builds respect and capability of these forces and there is no question why the Afghan Army is the most respected element in the ANSF. The more capable the ANSF becomes, through partnering, the sooner the ANSF can assume responsibility for their battle space, the more capable they become at separating the enemy from the people the better the government of Afghanistan becomes at providing services to it's people thus legitimizing itself in their eyes.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Matt · 12 years ago
    Afghan soldiers are our allies in the fight against the Taliban.
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    Ewakahuna · 12 years ago
    I'm sure Barbara started typing before her brain went in motion. I can't imagine she really meant what she wrote
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    Vicki · 12 years ago
    God Bless You Adam. And thank you Mike for this story, it reminds me every day of the bravery of our soldiers, and that my petty complaints are -- petty. Adam, you will not be forgotten.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Findley · 12 years ago
    At least some of us need to know with much more urgency, also. We need to know the story of some of our Afghan allies. As implied by the post asking the name of the Afghan soldier, he has a story and a family, he fought against the same enemy, and died for the same cause as Adam. We need to hear Adam's story, but we also need to hear the story of our Afghan allies, because otherwise too many are unaware that their freedom is worth fighting for, just like ours. Their lives are worth honoring, just like ours. Their sacrifices help make us safer, just like ours make them safer. Their story begs to be told, and their lives honored, just like ours.
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    Beauchamp · 12 years ago
    May God our Father in Heaven be with everyone who calls on his name. I have heart felt sorrow for all the give their lives to make the world a better place. To all that have served and all that have served and all that will serve, I am proud of you and I am very proud of America......... God Speed........
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Paul Wilson · 12 years ago
    When one of our children loses their life, a little in all of us dies. God bless the Ray Family in their loss and in their grief. God bless America as we continue into uncharted territory. Give our leaders, civilian and military, godly wisdom!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Thomas · 12 years ago
    Thank you Adam for your courage and sacrafice I know that you never be forgotten and that you can now rest safe and secure in Heaven and I pray that your loved ones will always be protected and cared for until you are reunited someday.
    God Bless You and all of the men and women who fight for freedom and justice.
    You will alwayse be remembered.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    mom of five · 12 years ago
    What a heartbreaking loss of an American son. I too have a young Marine the forth of five children who is yet to be tested. He is currently safe in America but I am sure to be shipped out at some point. As I read this moving tribute to young Adam Ray, he sounds like my son. I am moved to tears for his loss and the pain that his Mother is surely feeling. I know that it may be me some day. I hope and pray that it is not.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    wolfhound · 12 years ago
    There is a constant in the number of Americans focused on the culture, and away from libertys' service. This hasn't always been true. This lack of appreciation became fashionable during the '60s, and has affected American life ever since. Our underappreciated military sacrifices, always given by a minority of Americans, lacks the proper attention of a self-indulgent press and the majority it serves. So few provide the magnificent blessing of liberty, for the benefit of the thankless mass. We must be a solice unto ourselves. Adam served, Adam died, Adam sacrificed. I saw it in Vietnam. (note the name 'wolfhound', of the 25th ID) What a sorry country in the '60s........so underserving of such gifts. God has, and will continue to bless Adam, his family and friends, and all of those who willingly place the service of liberty above themselves. He understood completely that he was living a privilege, a privilege of service with the flower of his generation, and that all who refused be there with him, chosed to abandon service over comfort, and live off of the freedoms he provided. God bless those who possess such noble spirit..........
  • This commment is unpublished.
    L. M. Calhoun · 12 years ago
    Your dispatches, Michael, should be required reading for all. Bringing home the awfulness even of war in the defense of the nation is a necessity. We thank you, Michael. And thank you everlastingly to the troops and to the families who worry and sacrifice each day. Thank you! Thank you!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    HOTCHOW · 12 years ago
    RIP Adam. Rest easy now, your job is done.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Angie M Bishop · 12 years ago
    I feel so hopeless and heartbroken for these soldiers...their families. It tears apart so many people. What part of the trillions which were given to the DoD after 9-11 was spent directly on our troops and their families? Do any of you know?

    Suicides are now higher than those KIA.

    How do Americans turn the blind eye and ignore what is happening?


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