“As a hot headed saw gunner in the infantry, I was trained in the art of violence. Mentally and physically ready for any thing, my unit trained hard for one year to be ready to deploy to an IED and combat heavy COP Sabari in the Khost province of Afghanistan. Mentally I was ready for anything combat had to throw at me, or so I thought.

About a month or two into our deployment, we stopped for a KLE in a small village right outside our COP. It was a typical warm March morning and my platoon was setting up security around a qalat, my team leader does the usual rounds and places his firing team to pull security. My location however was particularly different than my other team members. I was placed next to a tree which is not unusual, however I noticed behind my location I had some company.

There in the open behind my location, I noticed there was a boy no older than four, sitting out on a high chair all alone. The boy most likely belonged to the qalat right next to my location, I looked down and noticed a chain about 30 feet long that connected his high chair to the tree I was using for cover. As I kneeled behind the tree for several minutes making sure no one snuck up behind my squad, I couldn’t help but take quick glances back every few seconds at the child behind me. The glances quickly turned into me slowly inching my way back standing next to the boy still facing my sector and keeping an eye on the open field in front of me.

As I stood next to the boy I noticed he was a special needs child, he couldn’t speak and couldn’t close his mouth. I also noticed he didn’t have full control of his hands or feet, and the flies were finding a home on his face and mouth because he couldn’t swipe them away, as I swiped at the flies he made eye contact with me and a sudden rush of emotions swept through out my body.

An overwhelming feeling of guilt and shame swept over me, I remember thinking to myself, “How could I ever complain about anything, when this kid is literally chained to a tree.” As I kept swiping the flies from his face, I couldn’t help but think how different his life would be if he was American, and how lucky I truly was to be in a position to care for myself and blessed to be in a country where this type of treatment of a special needs child was unacceptable.

Standing along side him, my role that day slowly changed from infantryman to unofficial guardian. I remember standing out in the open and feeling such a strong feeling of duty and commitment to the safety of this child. A child who I knew nothing about 20 minutes prior to our encounter, a child who I couldn’t speak to or communicate with. I stood right next to him out in the open behind no cover, a literal sitting target for any taliban. During that time I remember saying to him, “I got your back bud”.

If the very real possibility of getting attacked would arise, my plan was to pick up the child and run him into the house as fast as I could, while some how trying to simultaneously fire my saw with one hand from the hip like Rambo. Fortunately the moment never came and the only attack I was fending off was that of the relentless Afghan flies. My plan was to find this child every-time we returned, and spray him with some insect repellent to help keep the flies off.

I carried the repellent with me everyday and everyday I kept him in the back of my mind. Thinking next time I see him I’ll help him out and give him some water, and leave the repellent on his chair and maybe his parents would use it. That day never came and I never saw the boy again, but I still think about him every time I start to think about my deployment. The feeling of overwhelming guilt always comes right after;

‘What could I have done?’
‘I didn’t do enough!’
‘Is he alive?’

I was a hardened soldier an expert of violence and death, and ready for any threat that came my way, but for a brief moment in time I was defeated by compassion and emotion, the very last thing I thought I was going to be confronted with in that country.
I believe subconsciously that moment changed me more than any combat situation I encountered. After the military I decided to start a career in education, my wife and I also foster two amazing children that we plan to adopt. It all began there for me, and in some way shape or form I believe small moment changed my life forever.”
– SPC Danny Frescas. US Army. B. Co. 1-26. Khost Province. Afghanistan.
This story was documented by Battles and Beers (TM) Every soldier has a story, and every story deserves to be told.