English major Frank “Gus” Biggio ‘93 is an attorney and veteran of the Afghan conflict. He served with the Marines in Afghanistan in 2009. He currently lives abroad but returns to the Buckeye State for visits. His book of short stories about his experiences in Afghanistan, “The Wolves of Helmand,” will be published next year.
Enjoy excerpts from an Op-ed by Biggio published in Cleveland.com.
I’m often asked whether my service in Afghanistan was worth it. It’s a simple question that has no simple answer. It will never be for me to say to the families of the Marines who were killed or wounded in Afghanistan whether it was worth it. But to those families, I can say unequivocally that the service of their loved ones mattered and made a difference.
When I reflect on how our service matters, I think of the many Afghans who smiled as they saw their image emerge from a Polaroid snapshot I’d taken with the camera I carried with me everywhere, likely the only picture they’d ever had of themselves.
I remember Ishmael, whose parents and other relatives were killed when a bomb was dropped on their family compound and who had every reason to hate us. He did not, and instead would come to our patrol base to say hello to the Marines and ask for some English lessons.
I think of the many Abdul Rahmans I met, ranging from infants to ancients, as well as the Mohameds, Abdullahs, Saeds, and Walis who invited me to sit for tea and chew on a freshly cooked goat.
Or a widow named Sahaba, who cried tears of joy when Marines gave her enough rice, beans, and cooking oil to last her and her children for a month.
Or Haji Mohammed Hajem, who brought his family and all the belongings they could pile into a trailer towed behind a tractor back to Nawa after having fled the district 18 months before Marines made his home safe enough for their return.
Or a giant of a man named Haji Abdul Ghafar, who embraced me in his huge arms when I gave him a Pashto-language Quran and a prayer rug, then looked me in the eye and said in halting, broken English, “You are good men. I will pray for you as long as I live.”
Afghanistan wasn’t perfect when I served there. And it’s far from perfect today. But I think I can speak for the Marines I deployed with, as well as the thousands of other Afghanistan veterans, that our service mattered, and made a difference. Nothing revealed in the Afghanistan Papers can take that from us.