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Princess Salerno


SSG Neumann, 909th FST comforts a young girl from local village, Logar Province, Afghanistan 2010.

It’s also easy to just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Taliban have no rules of engagement (ROE) and they certainly have no regard for life, no matter how young, innocent or precious. The young girl above (approximately 8 years old) and the young boy below (approximately 6 years old) were playing near coalition soldiers that were dismounted in a local village just outside FOB Shank, Logar Province. Someone in the village tossed a grenade over the mud wall sending grenade fragments into these young children.  (note: no-one knows their age in rural Afghanistan - they guesstimate based on the crop cycles)

Young boy from local village, Logar Province, Afghanistan 2010.

Despite having been injured by a grenade, neither of these two children cried. The girl had a large grenade fragment embedded into her ankle. The boy had a fragment penetrate his abdomen, causing life-threatening injuries.

LTC Mike Bruce (L) and MAJ Joe Sucher (R) during operation on Afghan boy FOB Shank, Logar Province, Afghanistan 2010.

Both children required multiple operations due to their injuries. Dr. Bruce and I explored the abdomen of the young boy, repairing the damage done. Dr. Baier operated on the young girl, removing the grenade fragment and cleaning the fractured bone and soft tissues.

LTC James, LTC Hoeppner, SGT Anderson (background) and MAJ Aitchison provide postoperative ICU care for young boy - FOB Shank, Logar Province, Afghanistan 2010.

The children are recovering well as I type this post. The young boy will require at least 7-12 days of hospital care. He will recover fully and be playing in a matter of weeks. The young girl’s recovery will be longer, as the grenade fragments injured the bones of her ankle. She will be able to walk well, but will have permanent difficulty with running.

Afghan child recovering from grenade blast with older brother at her bedside FOB Shank, Logar Province, Afghanistan 2010.

The 909th FST, along with the “Charlie Med” team of the 173rd will hold on to these children until they have completely recovered. There is nowhere else for them to go and get this level of medical care. They are the now the Prince and Princess of Logar.

Princess Salerno - 2003 Photo Courtesy of SFC Dan Biesiadecki.

Princess Salerno recovered from her broken leg and became a favorite memory of the 909th after their return home in 2003. There is no way of knowing what has become of her over the ensuing 7 years. The team would rather just simply think of her just as she remains in these photos. A beautiful, innocent, princess child.

This is the Afghanistan that we should focus upon. The children are growing up under generations of war. It is no wonder why it is so easy for them to be turned into radical Islamists. They are indoctrinated via the madrassas that had exploded in numbers during the 1980s through 1990s. This country has been manipulated into this radical culture from outside influences. In my humble opinion, if we are to win the battle against radical Islam and terrorism, then we will need to invest in multiple generations. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Anything less than this full, long-term effort will only result in what we have now. History will repeat itself.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill Ewing · 9 years ago
    That young girl has such beautiful eyes. Reminds me of a National Geographic Magazine cover from 1985. Rather startling for a brown eyed Afghan world.
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      DL · 7 years ago
      [quote name="Bill Ewing"]That young girl has such beautiful eyes. Reminds me of a National Geographic Magazine cover from 1985. Rather startling for a brown eyed Afghan world.[/quote]

      In reply to your earler comment, Most afghans have blue, green, or some very light shade of eyes.
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    Gerard · 9 years ago
    Thanks, Yon. Another good, inside news report.
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    Maddy · 9 years ago
    Obama should add these children to his Obamacare bill, so they can get free medical care ahead of all the illegal aliens it will cover in the USA. The American people never mind helping anyone that is truly in need, they just don't like to have healthcare shoved up their A__! The photos are usual Michael! It's a shame the innocent have to pay sucjh a price. They are the true meaning of "collateral damage!"
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    Tommy Barrios · 9 years ago
    We have it sooo good, yet we have people like the present liar in the White House and his ilk who wants to turn our country into an Afghanistan like third world cesspool! We must revolutionize the way we think about America and return to the American values that keep people like these doctors and nurses returning to a god awful place to bring some measure of what America really stands for and represents, to these poor inflicted children and their parents!
    To Maj Sucher, the other doctors, nurses and medical tech's I say, "Bless you all". Your job is the most important in not only bringing modern medical miracles to that retched place, but also educating the people around the world to realities of the American spirit and what it means to be a true American in every sense!
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    AmericanJarhead · 9 years ago
    Clearly these images and stories confirm that we're the Great Satin. Thanks for posting this wonderful story.
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    Salma · 9 years ago
    This proves to my country and all the other countries that the United States military is not there to rape,kill or hurt these young beautiful kids.I'm standing beside these men and women in uniform as long as the war goes on.
    Thank you Michael.
    This is another one of your always admiring reports.
    TO peace....
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    6x6x4 · 9 years ago
    "radical Islamists ... indoctrinated via the madrassas"

    It's my understanding from reading elsewhere (LWJ, NYT) that the madrassas and their radical ideology are financed by Saudi Arabia. True?
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    Bruce Hinton · 9 years ago
    Glad to know it is a medical treatment item; -now I can try to imagine her living in a world where women are valued as equals and allowed to reach their potential. Assuming, of course, she makes it to a place in this world with the freedom to achieve such goals.

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    Julieann Najar · 9 years ago
    unlike the crap movies about our great troops in Vietnam .they did a lot of great things for the people there. and I remember letters from soldiers telling the improvements they were doing,the schools,the medical. but you never heard about it here in
    the states. so where were the Micheal Yons from that era??????
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    Scott Dudley · 9 years ago
    What a shame those two use a positive post about our compassionate country to shove their wingnut BS up our a...s
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    Spratico · 9 years ago
    Once again our military is proven to be some of the most compassionate and professional people ever. I always understood this, but it's nice to see examples of it.Thanks to the medical teams there for doing such a great job.

    And thanks, Michael, for bringing these stories to us. God bless America.
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    William Scott, M.D. · 9 years ago
    Thanks Michael for the inspiration. We ( Americans ) are still a good and courageous people despite all the bad press and our economic mess.
    These acts of kindness will not be lost on the Afghans, they have long memories.
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    Michael Adamson · 9 years ago
    This is what the USA is all about and deserves more coverage, thanks for the great post, it makes me prouder than ever to be a soldiers father and an American.
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    Michael Adamson · 9 years ago
    We probably can thank one of Alexanders soldiers for the blue eyes.
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    Brad Blauser · 9 years ago
    Right now, I'm on my way to a meeting with managers of an Iraqi factory who will soon start manufacturing the pediatric wheelchair I distribute to children with walking disabilities in Iraq. My intent is to have this Iraqi factory export the individual components of the wheelchair to Afghanistan, where I'll start an assembly operation to employ local Afghans, and provide high quality, rugged terrain pediatric wheelchairs for children who will never walk again. (Inshallah) ~ Brad @ Wheelchairs for Iraqi
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    Radio Jihad · 9 years ago
    Mike I have to respectfully disagree with your final statement regarding "radical" Islam needing some multi-generational solution. The problem is Political Islam and Sharia Law. Islamists believe Allah transmitted the Qur'an to the angel Gabriel who transmitted the text directly without influence from man to Muhammad. All prior prophets, texts, laws, cultures, and societies have been corrupted by man and are not inspired by Allah, therefore Islam is superior to all else.

    Islamists believe the world is divided into Dar al-Harb (House of War) and Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) - there is no middle ground or respect for man made constructs, governments, or laws. To think the Afghan people will give up their Islam for our freedom, liberty, and democracy is wishful thinking and frankly an arrogant attitude - I know because I used to think the same way.

    For an individual Muslim to leave Islam for any faith or no faith at all is Apostasy to the State and Allah. That individual is viewed as a traitor to Islam and the State. The 4 top schools of Islamic jurisprudence both (Shia and Sunni) agree on at least one thing, the punishment for apostasy is death. If a Muslim blasphemes the prophet Muhammad the penalty is death. That leaves very few options for the Islamist individual especially when the Qur'an teaches the family, clan, or tribal community has an obligation to Allah to carry the death punishments out without fear of retribution.

    Now if you know of a way to change that legal, cultural, and governmental structure called Political Islam - I'd love to hear it. I don't think we would have beat the Nazis with your mindset as articulated in your last paragraph Mike.

    America Akbar
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    Proud Military Mom · 9 years ago
    they are secular muslims in many parts of afghanistan and most Afghans don't wish to give up their Islamic beliefs -- they want people like the Taliban to stop politicizing it and twisting it to support the Taliban interpretation of Islam and S'haria law. and yours.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MH · 9 years ago
    The article is not by Mr. Yon, but a guest wroter. Check the byline.
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    Andrew Blair · 9 years ago
    Mr. Yon,

    Thank you for providing this article, and giving an articulate service member a voice. Your perspective is incredible, but there is so much more to tell than one man possibly can. Thank you, and especially MAJ Sucher.
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    Louise · 9 years ago
    Regarding the blue eyes, since the original Aryans were from modern day Iran, it shouldn't be surprising that some of that genetic stuff is still expressed in that part of the world.
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    JF Sucher, MD FACS · 9 years ago
    America Akbar,

    The comments in the article are all mine, not Michael's. They are simply and solely my personal opinions. I have great respect for all religions, including that of Islam. I believe that I am trying my best to separate "radical" Islam that infiltrated Afghanistan during the 1980s from "peaceful" Islam. I draw my opinions from reading "Afghanistan" by Stephen Tanner, "In Afghanistan: Two Hundred Years of British, Russion and American Occupation" by David Lyon and "Ghost Wars" by Steve Coll.


    JF Sucher
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    Doug Beckstead · 9 years ago
    Thank you very much for this article Mr. Yon and Mr (Dr?) Sucher. It really shows the realities of what Afghanistan and Iraq are all about. Only those who have been there and seen it first hand can truly understand. I spent many, many hours working at the Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad Air Base in 2008 and saw many civilians come through with everything from massive head trauma due to falling from a moving vehicle, to an 8-year old boy who was used for sniper practice by an insurgent, and a 17-year old girl who was shot by one of the local bad guys. Helping to place them in body bags is something that I will never, ever forget.

    Thanks for the service that you are providing with getting these great articles out to the public!
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    Doug Beckstead · 9 years ago
    In 2009, a very good book titled "The Great Gamble" was published that examines the Soviet-Afghan war. I highly recommend it along with the two listed above. But, in my professional opinion, Tanner's book should be thrown out when you get to the last chapter (or at least tear out the last chapter and throw it away). The earlier chapters give a very good understanding on how Afghanistan has been conquered over and over for the past several millenia.

    People keep comparing the current war in Afghanistan with Alexander the Great, and the British Empire when they tried to conquer and occupy Afghanistan. This is a poor comparison since the US has no intentions of conquering nor occupying the country.
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    Joseph Meissner · 9 years ago
    Thanks, Mike, for all of this. It helps us understand. The point is the children. Just like in Viet Nam, it was the children. (I was privileged to be a member of 5th Special Forces in Viet Nam and I have published a book, "The Green Berets and Their Victories.") Take care. Keep writing. I plan to forward your materials to some veteran friends. I will also be sending some money. Keep up your great reporting.
    Joseph Patrick Meissner at
  • This commment is unpublished.
    A Brit. · 9 years ago
    This is very OT, for which I apologise in advance. I do not know if there is any MSM coverage in the US concerning your government's statement on the Falklands ? Do you understand the magnitude of this insult ? If this is the way you treat your most loyal military allies, then ....
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    Radio Jihad · 9 years ago
    JF - you said you are only trying to separate "Radical" Islam from "Peaceful" Islam. In order to do that you will have to remove the "Radical" verses in the Qur'an that instruct good Muslims to wage Jihad and yes terror against non-Muslims. The penalty in Islam for talking about removing anything from the Qur'an is called Blasphemy and makes that brave individual a traitor to Islam. That is risky business for the lone Muslim reformer.

    In today paper there is a story about Karzai meeting with the Taliban as a step toward "national reconciliation" of the two groups in Afghanistan. The story goes on to say Karzai's plan is to provide economic incentives to lure low to mid-level Taliban off the battlefield. Historically buying off your enemy from the bottom up has not been successful. Especially when we just read about the horrific medical care Afghani children from their government infrastructure tasked with providing those services.

    JF - This discussion has drifted off point from the original story - however very interesting and I would love to continue the conversation with you and anyone else from this board.

    Go to and click on the comment section

    America Akbar
  • This commment is unpublished.
    epador · 9 years ago
    "There is no way of knowing what has become of her over the ensuing 7 years. The team would rather just simply think of her just as she remains in these photos. A beautiful, innocent, princess child."

    Unfortunately, where girls become chattel before they are women, the future for most any girl in rural Afghanistan remains bleak.

    Also, note that there is danger in the admission into a base, and transporting around of "family members." At least some of them are there to gather intelligence. Its an old ruse they've used for decades. Find a sick or crippled child and bundle them off with a elder Taliban to a base's front door.

    Our charity, seen as a weakness by many, is being used against us.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Minen · 9 years ago
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    Thomas · 9 years ago
    During the 1980s and early 1990s, DoD operated regular medevac flights for wounded Afghan civilians, taking from Pakistan to Europe and the US for reconstructive surgery. Many were victims of mines and Soviet anti-personnel devices -- and of those we brought out in medevacs, there were always the children. I personally flew 25 of those missions as Mission Director during my time at OSD -- landing after midnight and leaving before dawn.

    It was really a powerful moment for me to see Princess Salerno with a stuffed animal -- it brought back a lot of memories, though one not so good.

    During my time flying missions, from the height of the Soviet war era and into the draw down afterward, we had to advise our USAF Aeromedical Squadron nurses against offering stuffed animals to the children on flights. In the most poignant testimony of the brutality of the Soviets, the very sight of a stuffed animal could create a near riot on a medevac flight. The Soviets would airdrop stuffed animals loaded with bombs on fields in the rural areas and many of the children lost both hands when they picked up a cuddly toy like that.

    Today, as shown in the eyes of Princess Salerno, the stuffed animal is no longer a weapon of war and terror. With the fading of that memory among Afghans, and the passing of the Soviet Union into the darkest shadows of history, the world is a better place.

    And for those who wish to compare the US and ISAF forces with the Soviets, I can only say this -- you know nothing of history. Afghanistan is and will be a better place because of the hard work and sacrifices of America and Europe, through ISAF. It will take time, but the final chapters of the history of this war will be something about which we can all be proud.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dorothy Roush · 9 years ago
    God Bless the children and those who have sacrificed so much in theses troubled times as well as times past, for they all will see Gods Graces.
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    Steve H · 9 years ago
    OT - If I'd not read this piece this morning, I would not have known what you were talking about.
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    Steve H · 9 years ago
    Sorry for the multiple posts but the first did not carry the link.

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    Nasrullah James · 7 years ago
    the dog bite guys is my brother , i just want to tell you thanks for all things that you did with my brother (Rahmatullah),my name is Nasrullah Ayoubi i am an interpreter with shkin OGA my call sign is there James,if you guys need any kind of help that i can do i am ready for that, once again thank you.

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