All that Army National Guardsman Spec. Dennis Weichel knew when a group of children neared his convoy in March was that they could be in danger. The Afghan children, in a northeastern province, were in the area trying to retrieve shell casings at a firing range to sell for scrap.
Weichel leaped from his vehicle to get the children out of the way. But then one of them darted under a vehicle, whereupon Weichel crawled under that vehicle and pushed the child out of the way. The youngster made it. Weichel was run over and killed.
And in southeastern Pakistan, medics from a military combat outpost saved the life of a child seriously injured by a homemade bomb. The bomb was the creation of his father, a member of the Taliban organization.
Civilian casualties are an unfortunate reality of war, despite American efforts to limit them. Then there are awful aberrations such as the deaths of 17 Afghan civilians, allegedly at the hands of a U.S. soldier who has been charged with 17 counts of murder. That incident was horrific, and there was no reason or excuse for it.
But most members of U.S. forces do all within their power, even putting themselves in danger — in the case of Weichel, deadly danger — to help civilians. And Afghan civilians know it. Of the contrast between Weichel’s action and that of Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, charged in those 17 killings, one Afghan who happens to be the uncle of the boy Weichel saved, said, “As you know, all five fingers on one hand are not equal, and it’s the same with American soldiers.”
The News & Observer of Raleigh (April 5)