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These were our friends

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jamie Humphries
  • 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
I walked up to the kebab shop located on the grounds of our compound shortly after the incident happened. The Afghan man that works behind the counter had always been very friendly and greeted us with a smile and a handshake.

On this day, however, his smile was gone and he wore a look of disdain and sadness.

I've been going to his shop for a few months now and that day I smiled at him as I usually do, but his words really made me think. He said, "I am so sorry for your loss, Sir, and I feel deeply saddened for the families of your friends and comrades."

Certain things from your life are forever ingrained into your memory. One of those things for me, and I'm certain for the rest of the members of 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, happened April 27 -- the day nine of our teammates were taken from us in the blink of an eye.

These men and one woman were not just names or faces or a people wearing uniforms.
These Airmen and one retired Army lieutenant colonel were parents, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, spouses and our friends.

These were people looking forward to the end of their tour so they could return home with honor and back to the families they loved so much with their heads held high.

These were people we ate lunch with and shared family stories with while serving alongside alongside us in a combat zone.

These were nine people with dreams and goals and aspirations not only for themselves but for their children and Afghans.

These were people we emulated, respected and hoped to raise our kids to be like.

These were people living life their way ... the right way.

For those of us that were here on that day, our lives are forever changed. Natural feelings of guilt, remorse, sadness and anger are still present and it's still hard to fathom how a decision made so quickly can impact the lives of so many in so many different places at so many different levels.

We can't even comprehend why or how but what we can do and have to do is continue to live our lives from this day forward the best we know how in their memory ... in their honor.

With grief in our hearts and their families in the back of our minds, we forged ahead with a touching memorial here to share our sorrow and sadness with each other and to say our final "goodbyes."

It was an amazing honor to share that single moment with men and women serving in all branches of service, including our coalition partners. We stood shoulder-to-shoulder to ensure our fallen brothers and sisters were cared for and respected.

With every ounce of dignity, respect and courage that could be mustered, we sent them home. We sent them home to their final resting place and I know we did it the right way ... the only way.

I still think about the man at the kebab shop and what he said to me that sunny day. His words meant a lot to me just as the words of our nine fallen heroes meant to all of us.