My Last Tour: Afghan Culture

Melting snow revealed the stone outline of a soldier, a tribute to a Soviet-era
Melting snow revealed the stone outline of a soldier, a tribute to a Soviet-era Mujahedeen "champion."
TAMPA (2010-2-9) -

Afghanistan is being pelted with alternating snow storms and rain showers according to Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple. Melting snow makes for a messy trek along Afghanistan’s dirt roads but it also revealed a mysterious rock outline of a soldier on a nearby mountainside.

Curious about its origin, Temple asked the Afghan National Army Sgt. Major who he mentors to explain. He said the rock sculpture is a tribute to a Soviet-era Mujahedeen fighter.

“He called him a champion. This champion served under Massoud and was in charge of the Northern Alliance that fought the Soviets,” Temple said. “So somebody went up there and put these large rocks together and built this outline of this champion.”

While maybe not as elaborate, the Afghan mountainside soldier is akin to the Nazca Lines in Peru – large images outlined in the earth that only far-off viewers can see.

It’s just one of many Afghan cultural mysteries that fascinate Temple. The Tampa airman is currently reading “Afghanistan a Companion and Guide.” It’s a 700-page book filled with beautiful photos that has Temple wanting to return during peacetime.

“In fact my feelings have grown. I have a stronger desire to come back here,” Temple said. “I would love just to be able to take off my vest and my helmet and travel down through the bazaar and market area or travel out to the mountains and see how some of these tribes live.”

If all goes as planned, Temple will get a chance in the coming week to learn more about the culture and Islam. He was invited by an ANA instructor to visit class a religious studies class at an Afghan army base.

“Part of their curriculum is on infidel misperceptions. So, I have volunteered to go in front of their class and answer their questions.”

He wants the ANA soldiers to learn first-hand what Americans are like.

Some Afghans are learning about Temple by linking to and reading his blog. But he’s concerned that may endanger the people he talks about in his posts especially when he writes about corruption and fraud.

“I try not to sugar coat anything,” Temple said. “I tell it how it is and sometimes I reference who my source of information is whether it’s positive or negative news.”

Temple worries about backlash against the Afghans who have befriended him and share their insights and concerns with him.

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