Thursday, January 11, 2007

Why I Came to Afghanistan

By Renee' Willis-Williams
U. S. Army Corps of Engineers

My story is like most people who come to Afghanistan; in some small way, I wanted to make a difference by aiding in the recovery of the Afghan National lives, with an emphasis on women's health issues and the improvement of the infant mortality rate, which is one of the highest in the world - 147 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

As a woman and a mother of twin 3-year old boys, John Thomas and Rodgers Timothy Williams, who are being cared for by my husband, Rodgers Williams, who I affectionately call "Mister Rodgers" from the famous 1970s children's television show, I couldn't begin to imagine what it would be like to lose a child.

Any woman, who has ever cared for a precious life, can empathize with the plight of the Afghan woman. The children here are threatened with obstacles that take them all too soon, something I could not fathom before arriving here.

As I've watched my own two boys grow, in leaps and bounds, over the last 36 months of their lives, I received so much joy from them, and it breaks my heart to know that many of the expectant mothers here in Afghanistan will not get the chance to experience the joy of motherhood, which is why I was so moved to come to Afghanistan and assist with the Kabul Rabia-E-Balkhi women's Hospital project in anyway that I could.

Knowing that the work we do here immediately impacts the nationals lives, awakens me every morning felling blessed.

To see the medical staff, with Afghan women back at work, is overwhelming. The prior systematic discrimination against these women by the Taliban halted the education and progression of Afghan women. And, for those women who came back to this country to work, they were persecuted and killed.

My witnessing, first hand, how the Afghan people have worked so hard to maintain what little functionality they have in this hospital facility is truly remarkable.

I now have a new found respect for old-fashioned ingenuity. For instance, in the daytime something as simple as keeping the lights off and not powering up the radiology department until absolutely needed protects the 30-year-old electrical boards they have from burning out.

The electrical and boiler plant replacement is another one of the Corps' projects, but until it is finished 'just in time power', which means don't stock it or supply it until you have an order for it, is given to the hospital.

Besides working on the women's hospital, I am also involved in various other projects.

Since arriving in country, I've been working on the Afghan National Army (ANA) initiatives to build brigade housing, training facilities, a new Judicial Center, and the ANA hospital.

Working on the ANA Hospital project, for the last month, has been the most fascinating and rewarding thing I have done in my life, next to being a wife and the twins mother, of course.

What allows me to be thousands of miles from my husband and twins is a large family, particularly my mother-in-law, Meredith Williams, nieces and nephews, two brothers, four sisters and my girlfriends who are all with me in spirit and without their loving support I could not make it here because I miss them all dearly. We stay in contact mostly via email.

Native of Richmond, Virginia, I am a Contract Specialist attached to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineer's Afghanistan Engineer District for 140 days on a temporary duty assignment with permission from my Command, the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command in Arlington, Virginia.
Unlike most countries armies, when the United States goes to war, it also takes people to help rebuild the shattered lives of the people it liberates. There are many of these people and many of these stories who are helping people around the world every day. It makes me proud of my country and her citizens.


Gayle said...

A wonderful post, Flag Gazer! I am extremely proud of this woman and others of her merit.

I am not proud, however, of some American citizens and that fact saddens me. All of America's citizens should be behind our Military effort wherever our troops are deployed, and I'm sure you know that many are not.

RoxieAmerica said...

Excellent story of an excellent citizen!

Flag Gazer said...

I love this story - and you know there are thousands like this one. What fine people we have serving our country. They do make me proud!

I agree, Gayle, it saddens me, too, but what a loss for them not to know any of these remarkable people.

De'on Miller said...

This is awesome and I want Doc Duty to read it.