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Princess Salerno

Salerno child, Paktya Province, Afghanistan - 2003 Photo Courtesy of SFC Dan Biesiadecki.
SSG Neumann, 909th FST comforts a young girl from local village, Logar Province, Afghanistan 2010.

It’s also easy to just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Taliban have no rules of engagement (ROE) and they certainly have no regard for life, no matter how young, innocent or precious. The young girl above (approximately 8 years old) and the young boy below (approximately 6 years old) were playing near coalition soldiers that were dismounted in a local village just outside FOB Shank, Logar Province. Someone in the village tossed a grenade over the mud wall sending grenade fragments into these young children.  (note: no-one knows their age in rural Afghanistan – they guesstimate based on the crop cycles)

Young boy from local village, Logar Province, Afghanistan 2010.

Despite having been injured by a grenade, neither of these two children cried. The girl had a large grenade fragment embedded into her ankle. The boy had a fragment penetrate his abdomen, causing life-threatening injuries.

LTC Mike Bruce (L) and MAJ Joe Sucher (R) during operation on Afghan boy FOB Shank, Logar Province, Afghanistan 2010.

Both children required multiple operations due to their injuries. Dr. Bruce and I explored the abdomen of the young boy, repairing the damage done. Dr. Baier operated on the young girl, removing the grenade fragment and cleaning the fractured bone and soft tissues.

LTC James, LTC Hoeppner, SGT Anderson (background) and MAJ Aitchison provide postoperative ICU care for young boy - FOB Shank, Logar Province, Afghanistan 2010.

The children are recovering well as I type this post. The young boy will require at least 7-12 days of hospital care. He will recover fully and be playing in a matter of weeks. The young girl’s recovery will be longer, as the grenade fragments injured the bones of her ankle. She will be able to walk well, but will have permanent difficulty with running.

Afghan child recovering from grenade blast with older brother at her bedside FOB Shank, Logar Province, Afghanistan 2010.

The 909th FST, along with the “Charlie Med” team of the 173rd will hold on to these children until they have completely recovered. There is nowhere else for them to go and get this level of medical care. They are the now the Prince and Princess of Logar.

Princess Salerno - 2003 Photo Courtesy of SFC Dan Biesiadecki.

Princess Salerno recovered from her broken leg and became a favorite memory of the 909th after their return home in 2003. There is no way of knowing what has become of her over the ensuing 7 years. The team would rather just simply think of her just as she remains in these photos. A beautiful, innocent, princess child.

This is the Afghanistan that we should focus upon. The children are growing up under generations of war. It is no wonder why it is so easy for them to be turned into radical Islamists. They are indoctrinated via the madrassas that had exploded in numbers during the 1980s through 1990s. This country has been manipulated into this radical culture from outside influences. In my humble opinion, if we are to win the battle against radical Islam and terrorism, then we will need to invest in multiple generations. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Anything less than this full, long-term effort will only result in what we have now. History will repeat itself.


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