Earlier this month, there was a story about a suicide bombing in Afghanistan that killed three U.S. soldiers and two American civilians. Now, to date, there have been over 2,000 American deaths in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. But this particular incident caught my attention because one of the killed soldiers, Staff Sergeant Chris Ward, was from Oak Ridge, Tennessee–not far from where I live. I did not know Ward, but his death made local news.
From the Knoxville News Sentinel: Oak Ridge soldier killed in a weekend suicide bombing in Afghanistan: “Army Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Ward, 24, was serving with the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team. Saturday’s attack on a military convoy in southern Afghanistan killed Ward and two other soldiers — Spc. Wilbel A. Robles-Santa, 25, of Juncos, Puerto Rico, and Spc. Deflin M. Santos Jr., 24, of San Jose, Calif. — along with two civilians, one from the State Department and one from the Defense Department.”
So, Ward’s death made me aware of this particular suicide bombing. It was then, almost by accident, that I then saw this piece in the Daily Beast about the State Department officer who was also killed in that attack (and whose Facebook photo appears at the top of this post): “Anne Smedinghoff, the Hero Diplomat We Lost in Afghanistan.” An excerpt:
On Saturday morning, Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned the parents of a 25-year-old Foreign Service officer who had been so uncommonly upbeat and manifestly idealistic amid pervasive gloom and cynicism when she helped coordinate his visit to Afghanistan two weeks before.
Anne Smedinghoff had seemed to embody the spirit of America at its very best, and she had been determined to venture out and demonstrate a greatness of heart even as our military withdrawal was making that continually more dangerous.
Kerry was now calling to tell Tom and Mary Beth Smedinghoff that their brave and buoyant daughter had been killed by a bomb-laden vehicle while she was riding in a convoy to deliver donated schoolbooks in Zabul province.
“She particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan people and was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war,” her parents later said in a statement to the press.
Her official title was assistant information officer, but she also made herself a major booster of everything from the young Afghan who was nominated for an Oscar after his first attempt at acting to the Afghan women’s soccer team, some of whose members had in earlier years been able to play only in secret or by pretending to be boys.
She also posted on Facebook a truly remarkable photo from a war that had begun back when she was just starting high school. The photo showed her sitting in a helmet and body armor aboard a helicopter with two weary-looking American soldiers and an Afghan soldier who seems lost in his own country. They make her face appear only fresher, her smile only brighter.
“Helicoptering around Helmand,” the caption reads.
Requiescant in pace.
Image Credit: Anne Smedinghoff.