Letter from Afghanistan

Editor's Note: Rosalyn Rhinehart of Medford received this e-mail from Lt. Cmdr. Mark G. Dieter, 46, a chaplain serving with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 18 (the Seabees) in Kandahar, Afghanistan. She has known him since birth and he considers her his second mother.

Dear Medford Mom,

Our Seabees continue to play a critical role in the ongoing surge. One of our bulldozer operators just stopped and shared some stories from the past month out in the heart of Taliban country. Thankfully our heavy equipment is armored with bulletproof glass.

At one project, he had Taliban fighters shooting the heck out of his bulldozer which held its own. Can you imagine being in the cab of a bulldozer while enemy fire is pinging off your equipment? He was very thankful to leave the project safely, after pulling another Seabee into his armored cab to protect him.

Seems like the Taliban are also now working to confuse our bomb dogs by coating IEDs with oils and perfumes to throw off the scent. Two bomb dogs have recently been killed because they didn't pick up the smell of explosives. Sadly, whenever a dog makes a mistake, it usually takes the life of the handler, which happened in both cases.

We continue to appreciate the ongoing prayers and concern for all U.S. forces and our Bees. Your care packages have been such an encouragement to not only our sailors, but to soldiers as well.

We've been sharing boxes with the Wounded Warriors who are here at Kandahar Air Field recovering from injuries. They are often flown here quickly via chopper so don't have many personal belongings during their recuperation.

Your gifts have been providing much needed personal care items, snacks, and magazines to our troops on the mend and out on assignment. Members return back to their unit after injuries have healed. Desperately needed items at this time are: laundry and body soaps, razors, toothpaste and brushes, hair care, deodorant, eye drops, bug repellent, sunscreen, hand lotions and sanitizer, paper, pens and AA batteries.

Many do not have families who can send these supplies; a bottle of shampoo, a towel, sheets or a pillow are a comfort to us. Blankets are needed in the outpost as they are sleeping under the stars and the sleeping bags are not warm enough with the nights getting chilly. Forty of our SeaBees are on a project and have nothing, literally; they are really roughing it, taking a shower with one bottle of military-issued water and eating only MREs.

If you ever find yourself complaining about the quality of life available in the U.S., I would highly recommend six months in Afghanistan or Iraq! It definitely provides a fresh perspective on the amazing opportunities offered to all Americans.

The gift of life in America is a priceless treasure which we should never take for granted. The rights of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, the freedom of worship and access to education are foreign concepts in many parts of the world. We are indeed a blessed nation.

Happy Thanksgiving! May God bless you and your families!

Chaplain/Pastor Mark Dieter

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