Keep the writing coming for the true pictures of people and the wars that aree being fought and won....Praise the Dutch.......imho....
- Published: Monday, 12 October 2009 13:42
A Remembrance During Time of War
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.· 11 years agoFantastic sories about WW2...Everyoone remembers..no one forgets
Keep the writing coming for the true pictures of people and the wars that aree being fought and won....Praise the Dutch.......imho....
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoWRITE A BOOK ABOUT ALL YOUR BLOGS AND ADVENTURES
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThanks for the story and photo's of Kandahar. As much time as I've spent on the base I've never seen the town. Kabul yes, but Kandahar no.
What an experience with a Corolla full of bad guys after you. Truly unbelievable!
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoMr Yon I would like to Thank You for the work that you're doing, and encourage you to keep up the superb job. Absolutely fabulous and very informative. Again THANK YOU!
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoMichael, Your description reminded me of my trip to Nijmegen nearly 20 years ago to participate in the Vierdaagse, the four-day road march. The Dutch, both young and old, came running up to the groups of American soldiers to press flowers and thank-you notes into our hands. They were still as grateful then as they were in 1944.
Something I learned then I had forgotten until you mentioned the Germans stealing Dutch bikes. Apparently there's an idiomatic phrase the Dutch use to describe a trip to Germany that means literally, "I'm going to get my bike back."
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoFootnote:
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that Lance Corporal James Hill from 1st Battalion The Coldstream Guards has been killed by an explosion near to Camp Bastion in central Helmand Province on the morning of 8 October 2009.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThank you for your excellent post as always. A reminder of a grateful country who value freedom from bondage of tyranny.
A lesson for us all to never, ever forget those who willingly sacrificed, and have laid down there lives to save others. No greater deed than to have courage to face adversity, and to extend the joy of freedom.
Again thank you for the work that you do, so others may know!
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThanks, Michael, for this great site and photos. I would like to add to the conversation by adding a link to the National WWII Glider Pilots Association's website where anyone interested in a mostly forgotten combat MOS can learn more about the Glider Pilots of WWII who played such an important role in all our airborne ops during WWII. Here is the link: http://www.ww2gp.org/
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThe spirit of freedom is still very much alive in the Netherlands. And we honour every one who died defending it.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoOur 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.
Mike, with all due respect, could i just point out, that the above sentence is wrong. The RAF Regiment carry out patrols in the areas of flight take off and landing. These patrols are carried out on foot, mobile, standing patrols, using all forms of ISTAR, support weapons and using the Principles of Defence to the fullest extent. Sorry, i had to point this out otherwise my 6 month tours and reason for being there, mean absolutely nothing!
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoBy the way Michael, i look forward most days to reading your articles, a Soldiers journalist if ever there was one, take care.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoI've not felt so fine in a good while. To see such over the top positive thanks and remembrance strengthens my faith in the goodness of mankind.
thank you to the people of Holland, to Michael Yon and above all to those who made the sacrifice.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoI literally wait for a new dispatch to come out. I periodically check the page and am a little disappointed when there isnt something new. A bit ridiculous, i know, but your writing is appreciated and very refreshing. Im glad there are those that are so thankful for what we have done and what we stand for. Thank you, can't wait to get back to AFG?
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThank you for another brilliant dispatch Michael. I'm a huge admirer of your work. Had I known you were in the Netherlands I would have done everything possible to meet you.
As a Dutchman I'm very thankful for the service and sacrifice of all those allied veterans ) who liberated Europe from evil. Not just American, but Russians, Brits, Poles and Moroccan Goumiers, etc, etc. I'm glad that our efforts in remembering them are so appreciated. However, this kind of emotional remembrance is unfortunately less widespread than it might seem. As in the rest of the world there is much ignorance of and disinterest in our history.
If Obama does not send those reinforcements, the war is lost and we (the Dutch) should pull out as planned in 2010. If he commits to the resources for proper COIN we should continue our contribution as well. The Dutch public does not understand the mission though. Our politicians are mostly ignorant and only look at immediate costs and opinion polls. So I'm afraid the chances of us staying committed to Afghanistan are small.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThanks for a wonderful tribute to our veterans and the gracious Dutch people. May God continue to bless us and our NATO allies.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThanks for the great post. LTC Megelles was the guest speaker at my graduation from Airborne in April 2008, and we were all blown away by the energy and enthusiasm of this 91-year-old hero. It was his first trip back to Fort Benning since he himself had graduated Airborne School, and he told us how little had changed...except that now the school is three weeks long instead of four. "When I graduated, we had ground week, and tower week, and jump week, just like you...but we also had 'rigging week', where we all learned to rig our own parachutes. We would jump in the parachutes that we rigged, so we sure sweated those first jumps. I'll let you guess why the Army doesn't have 'rigging week' anymore." A great man.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoor at least you should be.
Damn fine article Michael!! You continue to excel and highlight not only our proud heritage but why (and wh we should be proud of everyday!
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoIt seems that you are growing with your aspirations and challenges, and not only keeping up but doing exceptional service to them and of course to all of us.
The respect and admiration of our Vets is something that we could all learn a lot from these fine people in this wonderful Nation. I just wish the average American could see your pictures and this dispatch. But most are too tied up in their own little world with their day to day problems which are not small today and will grow over the next year or more.
Again thanks for an exceptional dispatch and exceptional effort on your part, tho I know you are chomping to get back to our Warriors in Afghanistan. I wish to repeat something I have said to you for years:
Remember...your NOT bullet proof.
Central (used to be West) Texas
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoPerhaps someday we will commemorate a victory in Afghanistan...my uncle, though not Airborne, was with Patton and decorated with the Silver and Bronze Stars, Purple Hearts and French Croix de Guerre for, among other things, taking out a Tiger which had pinned down his platoon. After the War he walked the streets at night meeting other combat veterans who were also walking the streets. PTSD was virtually an unknown at that time though following the First World War there had been some research on shell shock and more apparent symptons. Besides all the metal for his chest he also carried a metal plate in his head where a piece of his skull had to be removed. I look at the GIs in Iraq and Afghanistan with the same respect as I view my uncle. Other uncles were 8th AF bomber pilot and USMC in Pacific .My Dad was Air Corp pilot-in-training when the War ended. True heroes and role models unlike most of these overpaid and spoiled athletes who get so much media attention.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoOutstanding post as usual, Mr. Yon. All Americans should be reading this site.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoMr. Yon, You are a remarkable reporter! Your photos and the writing place me in the Market Garden,
I Love Listening to the Veterans! Wish I could have been there! God Bless and Be Safe!
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoYou're really very good at this. I love reading you.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThank you so much for that wonderful story. My grandfather was a veteran of WWII and that really hits close to home. Thank you also for the work that you do in Afghanistan, it means so much to me to know what is going on over there. A lot of those troops are around my age (25) and it's heartening to know that someone over there is chronicling their journey so that they will be remembered for what they have done, much like the WWII veterans. Knowledge is infectious, thanks for spreading it.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThank you Mr. Yon for writing this piece and for the photo essay.
This reader feels like I was right there with you.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThis was a fantastic piece.
I'm terribly sorry that your warnings weren't heeded on Afghanistan.
I don't know what the problem is... we were showing an 11, the dealer a 7, but we still couldn't double-down.
My question is whether intransigence (of both administrations) on Afghanistan has made it harder for our soldiers to win there now? I would imagine so, but we need to win it anyways. My apologies to those who will pay for our unwillingness to provide the support they needed the whole time.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThis was a pleasant and encouraging story to read and one of your best in your collection of treasures.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThank you, Michael, and THANK YOU to the veterans whose efforts and sacrifices bequeath to us, the living and the liberated, the chance of a lifetime to MAKE OUR LIFETIMES worthy of their sacrifice.
I called my teen sons to wade through this with me, that they, too, might hold high the torch of individual liberty and the responsibility that comes WITH such personal freedom.
Keep up the good work, Sir. (Yes, I see the need for fiscal support, and I'm working on it)
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThe 12 College of the Ozarks (Point Lookout, MO) students who accompanied these WWII Veterans had an unmatched educational experience during their jouney reinforcing the College's focus on patriotic education. Thanks for the beautiful photos and commentary. I will pass your link on to the students. Sue Head, The Keeter Center for Character Education, College of the Ozarks
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoYou let yourself down Michael with the comment below the picture of the RAF Halton Pipe Band. Some of them may well be Scots, but a kilt is normal dress for a pipe band - whether it comes from India, Canada, or an RAF base in England! The RAF Halton Pipe Band is an award winning band based in England but performing all over the world - as seen in your post.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoI marched through Hertogenbosch with the Royal Welch Fusiliers who liberated that town, very moving experience.
We were in full dress unifrom and the people applauded and threw flowers in our path, couldnt pay for a drink all night.
Stayed in barracks somewhere near Eindoven I think, little bit hazy now as some 10 - 15 years ago.
Thanks Michael for the story and pics
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoDear Michael: I'm an American expat living in Ede, near Arnhem. Each year in September there is a commemoration at the LZ of 4th Para Bde on the Ginkelse Heide east of Ede. This year over 1,000 British, Dutch, American, Polish and German paratroops jumped to commemorate Operation Market-Garden. The event is, of course, very much directed to remembrance of the British and Polish efforts in and around Arnhem. Many British and Polish veterans still come.
I've noted that there are always small contingents of American soldiers present at these events. This year I took along an extra thermos of coffee. I found a group of soldiers from the 101st Division. Shook their hands, and thanked them for their service and all they've done for their country. I offered them my coffee, but they had a job to do, but seemed pleased to shake my hand and give their names.
I didn't do much at all for these folks, but am glad that, in even the smallest way, these soldiers know that they are appreciated.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoI am 1 of the Dutch re-enacters (with my brother and friends) present at the Waalcrossing monument (also participated in the Eindhoven parade).
For us its very moving to be able to see, talk and thank the Allied veterans who helped liberate us from oppression before I was even born.
Lets hope peace will finally be achieved in places like Iraq and Afghanistan soon. Keep safe.
-We will remember-
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoWhat a wonderful post. This is an inspiring story admist the negative news we always here. To have a country that is grateful for their liberation gives me hope that others might follow in their footsteps in the future. I felt like I was there. Fantastic retelling of the event!
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoMichael this is an excellent report !
As one of the organiser of re-enactment camp Dropzone-A at Eerde we could just focus on our own programm. With this beautiful report we get an excellent view of all the other commemorations that have been organized.
I am also glad that you have captured the story of Guadalope, I took him in my Jeep for the Eindhoven parade. It was an honor.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoAs usual, a moving post. Thank you.
I was a bit subdued by Canada only sending their defence attache when our country played such a huge role in the liberation of Holland during WW2.
Some say that without the Canadians surprising the Taliban with their willingness to fight, the city of Kandahar would have fallen in 2006. I don't know if that is true, but the instant cooperation between the Dutch and the Canadians at the equipment level (tanks, helicopters)in 2006 led to a much better equipped and protected Canadian force. Although, again, as Michael says repeatedly, much more needed and needs to be done on the kit and protection our soldiers need for the job at hand.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThe Dutch have not forgotten. They also do alot of the fighting in A-stan. M. Yon, keep that pistol close...
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoWhat an absolutely all-encompassing post. From the danger in Afghanistan, to a country liberated in another era that has definitely progressed since then. It's good to see the veterans so well appreciated, after what seems like decades of silence over here for much too long. Once again, job well done Michael.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoGood story - hopefully some day our Middle East veterans (or at least their children) can enjoy similar ceremonies such as this one in Holland for the WWII veterans.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoKeep it up. I had no idea the Dutch were so gracious and honored our veterans in such a manner. I hope our vets receive the same kind of special attention here in the U.S. They deserve it.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoMichael, in your 1st page you have mentioned arabian gulf. That's incorrect. It's persian gulf. I thought you would be careful with historical facts on your blog.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoMicheal,
I am simply amazed at your post from Eindhoven. Thorough, respectful, detailed, with something for everyone. You captured the events perfectly with your words and pics. The Netherlanders have long memories and really appreciate their liberators from WWII. Let's start a campaign here in the US to get WWII and Korean War vets invited to speak at local schools, to try to give our students a true perspective on history, unaltered by revisionists and politics. Is anyone doing this on a national level? If so, respond to Mack@SolidThinking.org and I'll get involved.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoGreat dispatch, Michael. A very moving display by the Dutch people. I hope I can visit their beautiful country some day.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoMichael writes that he often calls it the Arabian Gulf because a lot of people call it the Arabian Gulf. Others call it the Persian Gulf. I have found it labeled both ways on maps and globes.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoMichael, this was a great dispatch. God bless you and keep you safe as you navigate the dangerous territory you choose to report from.
You remarked about the length of your dispatch; it could have been twice as long and not been long enough. I would never tire of seeing these greatful remembrances and the distinguished veterans who gave their youth and their friends to the liberation of others from tyranny. Tremendous job.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoThanks Michael. My Dad was one of those flying the gliders. He would have enjoyed your story...I did.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoWhat a great dispatch! I really enjoyed this and was touched by the warmth and respect of the Dutch. A nice tribute to our most special veterans. Thanks to all of them for our liberty and to you for all you do Michael!
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoMichael,
Thank you for this great article!!!
I hope to see you again later this year
All the Way,
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoYour a good man, Michael. Thank you for your reporting.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoExcellent photos and commentary. It is heartening to see the Dutch hospitality to our veterans. It often seems as if we are going it alone these days and it is important that we realize that there are others who stand with us.
This commment is unpublished.· 11 years agoCoincidentally, I had just finished re-reading Cornelius Ryan's *A Bridge Too Far* when I looked at the calendar and saw that I was reading about MARKET-GARDEN exactly 65 years after it happened, to the day, when the shattered British 1st Airborne had to be withdrawn across the Rhine. (Chills.) Tragically, the failure of the op condemned the Dutch to a winter of starvation and months more before liberation—and yet, look at how they express their gratitude to the veterans that attempted to free them from the Nazis! No Euro-hatred of America, here. I am amazed at the sacrifices of these gallant men, and glad that there are those who remember history, and keep the remembrance alive for the rest of us. You are doing that, Michael, in real-time, and I thank you for your photos and journalism. Take care of yourself, eh? Speaking of history, today (10-16-09) is the 50th anniversary of the passing of GENARMY George Catlett Marshall, America's Number One Soldier (at least, during WW2).