March 10, 2008

The Last Letter Home

What was Abu Muqawama just writing about sophisticated journalism? Because this is journalism of the highest quality. This article would have read like a punch to the gut even if Abu Muqawama were not friends with one of the men profiled. No kidding, these boys from the 173rd Airborne in eastern Afghanistan are national treasures.

ORGUN-E, Afghanistan -- "How do you start a letter like this? How do you end it?"

On a raw November morning here, along the wild frontier bordering Pakistan, Lt. Col. Michael Fenzel spoke those words as he sat down to write to a father who would never see his son again.

Images ran through the colonel's mind. His own two toddler boys, growing up quickly every day he is away at war; the parents of Private First Class Jessy Rogers, whose own child would be forever 20 years old, his age when insurgents detonated a bomb under his Humvee.

Lt. Col. Fenzel, commander of the 1st Battalion (Airborne) of the 503rd Infantry Regiment, started writing, then stopped again. He pressed his forehead into his palms. "Jesus, this is hard," he said.