SPRINGFIELD, Va. — You just never know when all hell is going to break loose.
That’s the most amazingly unsettling thing about being in a war zone like Afghanistan. You can prepare for trouble — even expect it — but it will still eventually find you in the most unexpected ways, at times that simply don’t make sense.
A first-person account published Saturday by Wall Street Journal scribe Michael Phillips makes that perfectly clear.
Phillips watched in horror April 28 as a Taliban suicide bomber blew up a pickup truck carrying several U.S. troops in Zaranj, Afghanistan. The blast killed Master Sgt. Scott Pruitt, an accountant, and injured at least two other men in the vehicle.
Just a few days before, photographer James Lee and I crossed paths with Phillips at Camp Leatherneck, the Marine Corps’ main hub of operations in Afghanistan. Lee and I were headed to Sangin, the notorious district in northern Helmand province where more than 50 Marines have been killed since 2010. Phillips, a veteran war correspondent, was waiting for a ride to Zaranj, a relatively peaceful town in Nimroz province that was newsworthy because of its close proximity to Iran.
After wandering around Sangin for a week, that’s the kind of irony that sits heavy with me like a cast-iron stove. Lee and I returned from Afghanistan late last week, and were fortunate to spend several weeks on the ground in Sangin and Kajaki districts without anything truly jarring occurring. That’s just fine with us, especially after previous war-zone forays that were much violent. We’re grateful to the Marines who opened up and shared their worlds with us.
Today marks my first day in the office since March. I’ve got a couple more stories to complete coming out of the trip, but it’s also good to be home.
To everyone who followed along on this blog while we were overseas, thank you. We’ll be sharing more photos and anecdotes from our trip here in coming days, so please stay tuned.