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From: Captain Lisa Yanity
Date: August 11, 2005
Subj: Welcome to my blog  

This all started by a letter I sent to the editor thanking staff of The State for doing their jobs. Because they do their jobs I have a link home, to South Carolina, from my location in Afghanistan. One thing led to another, and here I am blogging from Afghanistan. I plan to share my experiences here with you all back home.

First some information about me. When not here I am a guidance counselor at AC Flora High School. I love working with the kids at Flora and can't wait to get back home. My family is very supportive of me and of my mission here. I could not do this without their love and encouragement. With all the things to worry about over here, knowing that my home is being taken care of by wonderful members of my family, my friends and neighbors enables me to focus on my situation here. I am a loyal Gamecock fan, so I will be up way before the sun rises to watch our games on ESPN. So please Coach Spurrier, you and the guys make my early morning wake-ups worth it.

I am part of a unit that provides medical and vet services to villages where no one else will go. When not on missions, I spend time counseling my fellow soldiers at Combat Stress Control. I really enjoy what I am doing. I am able to help the people of Afghanistan as well as other soldiers. Putting all the politics aside, I believe I am meant to be here at this time. I believe in my work here yet am looking forward to coming home.

I will attempt to blog at least three times a week; however we do go out for a week at a time, so bear with me if there is a break in writing. I will let you know if I will be away from my computer for long so that you all will be up to speed with me. My topics will vary from what I do in my down time to what Afghanistan is like. Feel free to send me questions or topic suggetions, and I will try to answer them or address them. I will not use this as a political forum but as an opportunity to share what I am experiencing on a day to day basis with you.

As you can tell, I write what pops into my mind. I have no format to follow. Kind of free-flowing thought. I hope you enjoy being part of my Afghanistan experience.

From: Captain Lisa Yanity
Date: December 5, 2005 
Subj: Speak loudly or carry a big stick? 

I have been out on day trips all week long. When we go to big villages it is impossible for all the women and children to be seen by our medical providers so I become the triage doctor. I send all babies, expecting women and the very sick into see the physician's assistant or nurse.

The majority of women suffer for body pain, heartburn, stomach problems, dry skin and the fact that they are women in Afghanistan, all basic problems that can be treated with basic over the counter meds. Well except the living in Afghanistan part. I also pass out the HA stuff that we bring so everyone gets something.

Most women I see just want something, anything even if it is just lotion and chapstick. But to be honest we are just a quick fix. We only supply them with 30 days worth of meds. These women think we bring miracles in our footlockers and they want them.

I go back to the point I brought up before about only looking out for themselves. The women here are unbelievably aggressive. Yelling at me all at the same time when I can't understand them, not listening to my interpreters trying to get them in some type of order, ignoring the village elders as they try and beat them into a line. It is unreal.

I am a very calm person and that is a good thing in these situations. I am not too proud to close my medicine chest and call in my guys to come and regain control. My guys come in and some order is achieved for awhile. However the women are back in my face, pulling on me, yelling at me and maulling me in no time. This week I had two female Navy Petty Officers working with me and they did an outstanding job but were amazed at how we were treated.

On other missions we have had members of the local Afghan National Army or police join us. The women listen to them because they carry big sticks and are not afraid to use them. They know that we will never hit them so they don't really listen to us, but a big stick is heard loud and clear. I really can't paint an acurate picture of what these women do.

OK, try to imagine the day after Thanksgiving shopping chaos. Now imagine that you are the only person standing between hundreds of customers and the item they want. Now imagine that all those people are yelling at you in a different language all at the same time. You want to help them, but they are not helping you help them. They keep pushing forward closer and closer to you. Still yelling, and now they are pulling and pushing on you. You see that your team members are geting as frustrated as are you. You want to give up, you yell at them to get back, but they don't understand you. You try to use what little bit of their language you know, and they still don't listen. They just yell louder. You want to walk away to catch your breath, but as soon as you move the items would be gone. You stop, call your team together, you try and remember that you are there to help. You then wade out into the sea of humanity again and try to figure out a way to help them. That is as close as I can come, and it is still not anywhere near what goes on here. We try to find humor in the situation to release some of the frustration, it might not be right but it helps.

I sometimes worry that my ability to care or to have compassion is gone. What have I become if I think it is OK to push these women away from me, to stop wanting to help them, to yell at them, to think, yep you are dying, there is nothing we can do, but here is some chapstick.

And then it happens, I am able to get one woman to sit down, she waits for me to get ready for her, but before the interpreter explains to me what is wrong she says one of the few words that I know, she thanks me for coming and gives me a toothless smile. My hardened heart beats again. I know there is little I can do for her, I give here meds that will easy some of her pain, I give her vitamins, lotion, lots of HA and of course chapstick. I don't have time to watch her walk away because someone else has begun pulling on my arm and wants my attention

For a brief moment Dr. Marty Martin and his Starfish Award comes to mind. I made a difference to that one, at least for awhile. So I am bouyed enough to jump back into the sea of burkas. I realize that even in the midst of chaos that something as small as chapstick can make someone's day. When I get home I hope that I remember that no matter how busy or hectic my day is, there is still time to do something small to make someone else smile. I just have to remember chapstick.

From: Captain Lisa Yanity 
Date: December 5, 2005  
Subj: Happy Thanksgiving 

Here I am getting ready to have my Thanksgiving meal served on a paper tray with a weapon on my side. I am far away from the ones I love and all the things I enjoy about this holiday. I miss watching the parades in my PJ's. I miss all the food prep for the big meal. The smells of ham and turkey and stuffing. I miss my mom's fruit salad and everything else. I miss attempting to wacth football but falling asleep instead. I miss shopping the day after Thanksgiving. That is something my mom and I have been doing for years. Of course we have every intention of starting the day very, very early but we usually get out into the fray around 9:00. It really is not about getting the sales it is more about the fun we have together. I really miss my mom, not that I don't miss my dad and the rest of my family, because I do but shopping with mom is a tradition that I can't wait to include my nephew and nieces in. Because when we really want to, we can do some shopping.( Those who know my mom ask her about buying 6 tables and chairs and her red car). I also miss this time of year because people tend to be just a bit nicer to one another. Sadly, this lasts only until after New Year's but unitl then it is just a better world in which to live. I challenge you all to carry that holiday spirit just a bit longer this year.

But this is Thanksgiving. Let me share some of the things for which I am thankful :

1. A supportive and loving family. Mom. Dad, Bob, Rene, Jake, Jenna, Chris, Kristen, Kaylee and Kris.

2. An extended family of wonderful friends that have enriched my life. Ann, Debbie, Matt, Candace and Jimm. And of course all of God's creatures that have found their way to my home.

3. My Gamecocks. Yes, the football team has done well but now we have basketball season and baseball, softball and track are right around the corner. I love being a Gamecock.

4. I have found people here in Afghanistan that I can't imagine my life, from this point on with out them in it.

5. That I have only 84 days left.

I have so much more for which to be thankful but that will do for now. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. Be kind to each other, take care of one another and please eat a piece of pumpkin pie for me.

From: Captain Lisa Yanity 
Date: February 24, 2005 
Subj: Last Mission 

Because of an injury I have been grounded for the past month, unable to go out on our week long missions. It has been hard not being able to go out. I know my family likes the idea of me just staying here on BAF, but it drives me crazy. I have been able to participate in day missions with SGM P's guys so that has prevented me from going stir crazy. I just completed what should be my last mission, last trip outside the wire and last time to play with the children of Afghanistan. It was a great mission. I am going out on a high note. It is hard to think that it is over. I am happy because that signals time to go home but I am sad as well.

We went to a Women's Center not far from here. I had a wonderful time. My only responsibility was to pass out the humanitarian aid and play with kids. SGM P would not let me move, carry or help in any way that would cause injury so it was easy to play with the kids. The only thing I did do was help open the bales of blankets. The blankets come in huge, heavy bales just like hay. They are very tightly bound with wire, which makes it difficult to open. A local Afghanistan man was working very hard trying to cut the wire around the blankets with one of the soldiers' Leatherman. It had a wire-cutting component to it, but it was not getting done. I got another Leatherman, and between the two of us we plowed right through them. He did not think that a woman could do it; well I showed him. Everyone was watching as the two of us worked together to get the job done. It was not easy either. We got a work out, but we smiled, laughed and cursed the wire in our respective languages the whole time. We shook hands and hugged at the end. The girls at the center and the men there saw that women and men can work together. This really was a big deal. The Public Affairs people even did a story for Armed Forces Network on the cooperation that took place. I'm on TV, again. But that just illustrates how the little things can make a difference, how smiles and laughter can break down barriers and build a new foundation...

...I am done. I can turn in my ammo, pack my IBA and say my goodbyes. Nothing left but to get ready to leave. And as you can tell reflect on what this past year has meant. I can't stress enough that I would not change a thing. Yes it has been hard but it has been rewarding as well. My last mission summed the whole year up:

I had fun helping the people of Afghanistan and together a difference is being made.

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