Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan – Many Americans have died in these vineyards.
Canadian blood has fertilized this ground, and we kill Taliban in these fields daily. We watch them through UAVs, such as Predators, as they hide their weapons among the rows, or attack us, and often they move undetected. When the Russians came through this area, the Afghans said they would hide under the vines until the enemy was very close, and shoot them point blank. After all, many of the local kids grew up right here, picking grapes and playing in the vineyards. They know every bump and divot. The rows are not made of wire or wood as in the United States or Europe. The rows are mounds of packed mud that can stop 30mm cannon fire. The enemy plants bombs along the rows and paths, and so our troops often cross perpendicular across the grape rows which sometimes are over chest high. Even without the heavy gear, the obstacle course is grueling and sometimes we take fire, or someone gets blown to pieces. The out-of-town enemies also don’t know where the bombs are hidden and so they often are killed. Every day we hear detonations that remain unexplained. Could have been anything. Normally we know the causes, but many will never be known to us. I’ve probably never written a full dispatch in this tent without hearing an explosion. Sometimes it’s a distant rumble and you only hear it. Other times the shockwave pops the tent walls and your body feels it. We usually hear many each day. Fighter jets are roaring overhead as this sentence is formed.
This morning, my tentmates taped a photo of Chazray Clark to our door. Chazray had just moved to our tent to be with his platoon. His buddies are steps away as these words are put down. They are sitting on their cots. We just had a rocket strike on base and heard an explosion. Sergeant Wooden asked me yesterday to read something he had written for Chazray. It was very good and written by a man who was also wounded recently, and who nearly died with Chazray. The men in this tent are moving forward, preparing for more combat but they have been noticeably saddened since the bomb took Chazray on Sunday. Some nearly died with him. One Soldier was so deaf that another Soldier had to grab him by the shoulder whenever he was needed. I was farther away and could hear as the rocks rained down around us in the dark. Chazray was terribly wounded and had been thrown and landed on his face. The platoon was staggered yet kept their bearing. There was no light, and the nightvision devices were useless in the thick dust. Sergeant Wooden called out the names of his men in the darkness. Near the detonation, nobody could see each other. Sergeant Wooden called the names, and he called, “Clark!” Chazray was facedown. One arm was gone and his legs were gone, and yet this man had the strength and presence to call out from the dust and darkness saying he was okay. Chazray could still hear. Chazray answered, “I’m okay,” and Sergeant Wooden said his voice sounded completely normal. Just normal Chazray. But everyone here knows that when someone calls out and says they are okay, the sound of their voice only means they are still alive. They found Chazray and put on tourniquets and unfolded a stretcher. I was not in the dust and could see brave men carrying him back over dangerous ground and Chazray said his arm tourniquet was too tight. He was in great pain. Through nightvision I could see an Afghan Soldier rush in to help carry Chazray.
Rest in Peace, Chazray Clark.