Photograph by @dguttenfelder | In 2009, I joined the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, 1st Battalion 5th Marines on an operation into a district called Nawa in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The Marines said that it was the biggest air assault since the Vietnam War. We were inserted by helicopter in the middle of the night and went on foot for days through the desert carrying everything on our backs. Resupplies were sling loaded into open terrain by helicopter every three days. It was one of the roughest, hottest trips I experienced during the decade I spent covering the war in Afghanistan. It was well over 100 degrees. The Marines had been walking since early morning and some guys had already been evacuated by helicopter for heat stroke and broken ankles. When they arrived they would still need to dig small trenches so they could sleep under the ground for protection from Taliban mortor attacks.
This was the week of the 4th of July. So many others back home in the USA were grilling burgers and drinking cold beer by the lake that week. These guys woke up at first light, after sleeping in holes in the ground that looked like graves, hoping only some drinking water would arrive. I think about all of the guys I met over the years in Afghanistan and Iraq. I’d been living abroad my whole adult life and so these guys were the few Americans of their generation I’d ever really known.
The Long Road Home is an incredible true story about soldiers at war and the families they leave behind. Tune in tonight 9/8c on National Geographic @natgeochannel. #longroadhome