Michael's Dispatches

Into Thine Hand I Commit My Spirit


Arghandab, Afghanistan
New Year's Eve, 2009

On this small base surrounded by a mixture of enemy and friendly territory, a memorial has been erected just next to the Chapel.  Inside the tepee are 21 photos of 21 soldiers killed during the first months of a year-long tour of duty.  The fallen will belong forever to the honor rolls of the 1-17th Infantry Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and they will join the sacred list of names of those who have given their lives in service of the United States of America.

The symbol of the 2nd Infantry Division is the Indian Head.  At night, soldiers of the “Indian Head Division” can be seen passing by the tepee, sometimes stopping to peer inside before walking into the darkness.

Sometimes the soldiers walk by carrying lights that are red or green, or sometimes white.  Tonight, Cobra Battery was firing illumination rounds from the cannons, which boom from the darkness, arcing a round into the night, where miles away a canister unsheathes, and the parachute opens, and brightness floats silently, shimmering over the valley where these soldiers died.

The firing is not done in remembrance, but to support ongoing combat operations.

Inside the tepee are the 21 photos, and a Bible.  The book is opened to Psalm 31.

In front of each photo, electric candles flicker through the night.

Mostly there is silence.

Soldiers put cigarettes in front of each photo, though they say that many of the fallen did not smoke.

…for thou art my strength.

Only during such times are strong men and women of greatest importance.  At all other times we have Hollywood.

Today we need soldiers who never forget their brothers, while they carry forward with devotion and strength.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    d · 12 years ago
    God bless
  • This commment is unpublished.
    tresho · 12 years ago
    Leaving an offering of tobacco at a sacred site is an ancient Indian custom. The use of cigarettes as mentioned in the article certainly resembles a tobacco offering in the ancient tradition. I have seen dozens of small offerings of images, colored ribbons & cigarettes unobtrusively tucked in rocky crevices in the Black Hills, sacred to the Lakota tribes, near Mt. Rushmore. The last time I was at the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial I shredded a cigarette I bummed from a friend, and sprinkled the tobacco from it next to the name of my cousin, KIA in 1970, 1st Cavalry Division.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    K. Gibbs · 12 years ago
    Please encourage our brave men and women in uniform that they are not forgotten. Even if we do not always post, we are thinking of them often in thought and prayer. Thanks again to them for their service and sacrifice.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    carder · 12 years ago
    Is it just me or does it seem the Afghan night sky is just full of stars? We certainly don't see such shimmering skies here in central Florida.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    D. Eichenberger · 12 years ago

    Our hearts go out to the families of the fallen and to their comrades who love them. We continue to keep all of you in our prayers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    david · 12 years ago
    To those who have and continue to serve - I honor you in the highest. To those who have given all - I shall never forget.

    Thankyou Michael for telling their story.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kanani Fong · 12 years ago
    Someone put so much thought into this memorial. I don't know who or whom it was, but really ...an incredibly deep and rich experience has been given to those who have passed and others who hold them in their hearts. Everything about this post touched me very deeply: the stars, the illumination, the single stream of light, the photos of those who have passed, the bible. Thank you so very much.

    "What is life?
    It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
    It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
    It is the little shadow which runs across
    the grass and loses itself in the sunset."

    -Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator 18 0 - 1890
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Charles Phipp · 3 years ago
      The monument was designed by our Battalion's Chaplain, CPT Lewis, and his assistant
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jan D USA · 12 years ago
    A spiritual memorial of the purest form. A tribute of greatness for our fallen soldiers. I am so thankful to whoever did this in their honor.

    Michael, the photos are simply magnificent .... each photo accentuated the one before. I deeply felt the sacredness of the memorial. You put me right there. Thank you so much.

    And, Tresho, thank you for sharing the ancient Indian custom. And, Kanani. for the poem of the Blackfoot Warrior.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ken Van Tassell · 12 years ago
    Wonderful tribute to the SPIRIT we hope lives on
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ron · 12 years ago
    Thanks for sharing this with us Michael - God bless you and our troops all over the world
  • This commment is unpublished.
    50GreenDodge · 12 years ago
    Are there watchers in that night sky over pagan, sere Afghanistan?

    Do they report on the primitive battle witnessed from above? Is such futility observed and later communicated - to waiting leaders on harsh worlds several galaxies distant?

    - 'These are sentient beings, but they lack higher ability at resolving the difficult problems of coexistence.'

    - 'Food and fuel abound, leaving open the question of why there is such strife - less it is their natural condition.'

    Fellow readers: Would you like to feel as good as I occasionally do? Then set up a periodic donation to Michael Yon. Keep this great work going.

    Happy New Year, Michael.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sharon Robino-West · 12 years ago
    There is lasting peace in the native traditions for those who have fought the good fight and gone on ahead of us. Those in Afghanistan are not and will not be forgotten.

    This is a political war on many levels. The fact that the prize does not include rich oil fields has a lot of bearing on whether or not we will hear much about the current conflict, and why we are still fighting a war there that began before Iraq even got started.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    o6ret · 12 years ago
    Michael: You are doing the Lord's work but I fear it is for naught, at least not to document the victory.

    This administration has no vision (or stomach) for the fight in A'stan. The President's "commitment", apparently caught somewhere between his Nobel prize and campaign pledge, begins with a belated decision to send an additional 0K troops while simultaneously stating his intent to begin withdrawing those same assets before they've been fully deployed.

    This politically correct "leadership" provides our ground commanders with only limited options, none of them very good given the constraints. Our brave marines and soldiers press on with little to look forward to except counting the days (and fallen comrades) until their tours are over or the withdrawal begins.

    We look to you to document their plight. Your insightful writings are creating a lasting and honest record of their dedication in the face of daunting odds. Your words, augmented by the perceptive eye of your camera, capture the humanity of our warriors as never before.

    Rest up in Hong Kong....but hurry back. The war fighters (and the American people) need you to tell their story.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jean · 12 years ago
    GOD BLESS ALL.They rest in the arms of their FATHER who he knew before they were in thy Mothers womb.GOD I pray for these your children to lead,guide,direct,touch with thy loving hand.Thank you Michael for all you do stay safe and I know you are wearing the GOSPEL ARMER GOD BLESS you and protect you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ed the Roman · 12 years ago
    Central Florida has almost twice as much air between it and the stars as AFG does, and much, much more ground based lighting.

    You see a similar difference in night skies between Oahu and the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the big island. It's astonishing.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Matthew Aamot · 12 years ago
    Thankyou Michael, and thank you to the soldiers I now call my brothers in the 1-17. I am smiling through the tears...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John Nixdorf · 12 years ago
    The 2nd ID "Warrior Division" is our line of defense in Korea as well as across the globe in the War on Terror. Visit their website http://www.2id.korea.army.mil/
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Naked Patriot · 12 years ago
    God Bless our Warriors and thank you Michael for your beautiful work and dedication to our military.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Todd Gates · 12 years ago
    The Bible says that "where sin abounds, grace abounds that much more". Isn't it ironic that the worst human endeavor brings out the greatest of human qualities. I thank God for the valour, sacrifice and love shown by our warriors. In a movie, which title I've long forgotten, the character talks about Pele's famous, last second, bacward somerswault bicycle kick for a goal. Pele runs across the field in a joyeous frenzy ripping off his jersey. e character says, "It uplifts me to know that I belong to a species that can do such amazing things."
    I am uplifted to know that in some small way I am related to such human beings as these. I am both humbled and pride-filled.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank · 12 years ago
    May the LORD give you peace as you grieve these brave soldiers.
    "We don't know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future"
    Regardless of who is currently in the Oval office, these soldiers did not die in vain.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Seguin DeRousse SMSg · 12 years ago
    My grandsons have all served/are serving in Iraq. So far, none of them have been to Afghanistan. I pray that
    the sacrifices of these young men will keep them from going, but, I know they will go if asked....
    Thank you all....
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Wes · 12 years ago
    One of your best dispatches ever...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kevin Brooke · 12 years ago
    God bless you Michael as you cover these historic events that are so much a part of all of our live's. As a "Native American" myself I find this article & photos very timely indeed!! The "Tepee" is the "perfect" figure of expression to symbolize our worrior's there. I pray daily for all of you & ask that most will return home safely. I know that other's will not & may God take them into "HIS" kingdom, where they will suffer no more.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Doug Laybourne · 12 years ago
    Sunset and evening star and one clear call for me,
    And may there be no mourning of the bar, when I put out to sea.
    But such a tide as moving seems asleep, too full for sand and foam,
    When that which drew from out the boundless deep turns again home.
    Twighlight and evening bell, and after that the dark.
    And may there be no sadness of farewell when I embark;
    For though from out our bourne of Time and Place the flood may bear me far,
    I hope to see my Pilot, face to face, when I have crossed the bar.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    AFSister · 12 years ago
    Once again you've captured the Warrior Spirit of our Soldiers in pictures, Michael. They honor the dead by continuing to live and fight, remembering all and forgetting none.

    I sit at home sometimes, missing my husband as he works away from home, and think about all of the wives out there that won't see, smell, or feel their husbands again due to their sacrifice. It is then that I feel thankful, not depressed or sad, that he's not at my side that very moment, because I know he will be soon. God bless them all.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kathy Rollwage · 12 years ago
    I hope that the US and the world will someday truly realize the incredible sacrifice that has been made and continues to be made by those that serve in the Armed Forces, but especially those directly in harm's way every second of a given day. May God protect them and give them victory over their enemy.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jim Growney · 12 years ago

    Once again, your writing and pictures transport us to the reality of the situation. This somber celebration of our fallen heroes is beautifully done.

    Thank you.
    Jim G.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sara Johnson · 12 years ago
    Powerful, powerful visuals and words that document our soldiers lives halfway across the planet. God Bless all families and friends waiting at home for these brave defenders. Stay safe Michael Yon and keep telling us their stories.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ed Rohneer · 12 years ago
    In Vietnam we used to say, "Though I walk through the valley of death, I shall fear no evil. For I am the toughest son-of-a-bitch in the valley." It was said more to try and protect us from our own fears, than a statement of fact.
    I only hope that now, not as then, the American people stand firmly behind our military as they fight the fight we no longer are able to. God Bless and Keep Them Safe as they go forth in harms way.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mike Isaacs · 12 years ago
    I am completely humbled by your work. Truly, your greatest reward awaits you in heaven. Your work inspires me to live each day a little better than the previous; to remind those around my daily walk for the reasons why we fight, and to live in sincere graditude of the men and woman who lay it on the line each day of their service so that I and my country can continue to enjoy freedom...

    I too will celebrate in silence tonight and pray for victory and a safe return home for you and our fighters one day soon.

    God Bless you and the work you do...

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Marilyn · 12 years ago
    What a beautiful tribute these soldiers have made to their fallen friends. I recognize the names written, and it saddens me to no end and, selfishlessly, I am grateful that the name of the one I love is not written there. Thank you, Michael for portraying so beautifully the hearts and courage of our soldiers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Vi · 12 years ago
    You make me cry for... THE SORROW. SARIFICE, BEAUTY, of this HELL OF WAR !
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Leonard Henry · 12 years ago
    I recited this poem at my father's funeral last Spring at the national Cemetery in Florence, SC. He was a Marine... Guadalcanal, etc.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Michael Slee · 12 years ago
    It is customary that when every they have a pow-wow and the spirits are called they make offerings around the drums where the men are chanting. Tabacco is a common offering to the spirits. It is a sign of respect. They know you have them in mind.... they are not forgotten.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Eagles Dominion · 12 years ago
    As A Vietnam Veteran 69-70 whose son is currently serving in the Arghandab, Afghanistan area with the 4th BCT, 82nd ABN DIV I want to say THANK YOU and a SAFE and Happy New Year to all those that serve this Great Nation!! God Bless.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tim Hurson · 12 years ago
    An absolutely beautiful memorial and your depiction of it brought it to life for all the world to see. This is what our nation needs to see on the nightly news. God bless our men and women in uniform.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Pete G. · 12 years ago
    Again another wonderful post. A picture truly does say a thousand words. You express so much with so few words and pictures. It never ceases to amaze me how well your pictures and words tell so very much with so little. Nothing can compare to our brave and dedicated men and women that take the fight to our enemy. Thank God that someone like you are there to record their stories. I never pass a chance to stop and shake hands with anybody that I meet wearing the uniform of any branch of our armed services, and tell them, " Thank You" for the sacrifice that they have volunteered to make, no matter where it may be or how much I have to go out of my way to do it. Please let them know that they are always in my prayers and thoughts.
    As for you, please be careful, as much as it is possible, where there are no real safe areas to start with. We need you as much as we need the troops so their stories will get told. Big media and the networks have no interest in telling the true stories of courage and personal suffering plus the sometimes humorous events that will always take place even in the worst of conditions. I can't afford to make a regular donation, but still manage to send something as often as I can. I always forward your posts on to my friends and give your website URL to anyone who has never heard about your work. May God bless and watch over you in 2010 and far into the future. You are truly a special person.

    Thank You,
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ed! · 12 years ago
    The words and images used in this were of such awe inspiring beauty. I find it telling of our soldiers over there that they show such devotion to their fallen comrades with such a display. It says volumes of the character of those that sacrfice so much for all of us, not just in the US, but all over the world. God Bless our soldiers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Cory Graves · 12 years ago
    Your photos are magnificent. Your words are formed of peacefulness from your heart. To you and all those you are surrounded by in this time of turmoil I offer my warmest regards and deepest gratitude for protecting our freedom. Thank you so much for your tireless dedication. Happy New Year, I hope that we can put this war to rest soon and all find peace in our lives. God Bless you and our soldiers, especially those who have fallen.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    spratico · 12 years ago
    May God bless these brave men and their brothers in arms who remember them and hold them in high regard. Few people respect what the US Armed Services has done to actually bring peace to world. We are only remembered lately for what we fail to do correctly. To those I say, "When you are beaten down and oppressed, who will you hope to save you?"

    I have so much respect for our guys. They are THE BEST!!! Sometimes I wonder if losing such quality men is worth it. I am reminded, however, that we are the last bastion of freedom-loving, self-sacrificing people on the planet. If we don't lead in the fight against despotism, evil, and hate...who will?

    May God bless our guys in the field and the ones who have fallen for our country AND to liberate another country. I pray for you all. Be safe, boys, we here in the States are praying for you. These prayers also go out to all of the courageous guys from Canada, Lithuania, Poland, Britain, Australia, the Frenchies, and everybody else who fights for peace and freedom.

    God bless, boys! And God God bless you, Michael.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    GM Roper · 12 years ago
    Michael, from the first time you welcomed me into the world of blogging back in '04 I have read your posts and your dispatches. All are moving, but none more moving than this one. God Speed my friend, and thank you for your undaunted spirit and the spirit of these wonderful American forces. God bless you all.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    M. Perry · 12 years ago
    Thank you Michael for bringing us your photos and feelings of what the boots in Afghanistan are facing to protect us at home. We read with special feeling the last inscription of SPC Aaron Aamot, a local young man we received and attended his funeral in our local high school. Aaron lived Psalm 1, which was a tremendous comfort to his Family in they are assured of meeting him again in eternity. We have a son in Leatherneck. Our hearts are with all the warriors fighting the evil to protect the helpless.
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    Roger · 12 years ago
    A beautiful post and beautiful imagery (even though nothing will top your picture of the soldier cradleling the iragi girl--its up there with the flag raising on suribachi)

    I was fortunate to be accepted in the Yakima Warriors association when I was in central washington, and I very much appreciate the link to all Americans, from the ones that got here first to the latest to arrive--we are Americans all--and the only lapel pin I wear anymore is that of the Yakima Warriors--

    Thanks for a brillant and most moving post.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Terrye · 12 years ago
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    J Jones · 12 years ago

    This appeared to happen in your neighborhood. Any information?

    "Also Wednesday, NATO said four Canadian troops and one journalist from Canada were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb on a patrol a few miles outside the southern city of Kandahar. The journalist, Michelle Lang of the Calgary Herald, was on assignment covering Canadian military operations, said Major Steven Cole, a spokesman with the NATO-led forces."
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Cathi L. · 12 years ago
    God bless, Michael. God bless our troops. And thank you for all you have done and all you will be doing for our troops in the future.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Victoria Hudgins · 12 years ago
    Dear Michael,
    May God bless you and keep you, for all that you give to your job. Your photos and essays touches me deeply. I truly believe God put you here for this very special work. Safe journeys, Michael.
    Victoria Hudgins
    San Diego, CA
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MD Pacific NW · 12 years ago
    Matthew, When I read your comment, I was at once struck by its simple and powerful message.

    " Thankyou Michael, and thank you to the soldiers I now call my brothers in the 1-17. I am smiling through the tears..."

    When I read the tag, I remembered the photo Michael took of the names on the memorial to the fallen, and the name of Aaron Aamot your loved one at the end of the list. (I make it a point to read every name on all such lists...it is my way of honoring them and showing respect to those who go where I would not, to do a job that I cannot)
    Your courage and kindness in posting your message in the face of such a devastating time for you and your family, is a testament to the American heart, and one of the very reasons your brothers, and ours, are now in Afghanistan.
    Thank You, Matthew.

    Again, Michael, please... tell our brothers and sisters there, ALL of them, thank you from us. That we love them, miss them and stand or fall, we are with them in spirit.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    jill · 12 years ago
    I don't think General McCrystal would look to kindly on this display. Court Marshals all around.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Alaska Paul · 12 years ago
    This is a very solemn and touching memorial, Michael. I would like to see your photoessay displayed in some MSM media. But of course they would not do it. Nevertheless, someone has to chronicle the deeds and sacrifices of our warriors, and some of it falls upon your shoulders.

    Well done.

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