February 6, 2004 at 11:30 a.m.
This week, on Monday, the military man who helped arrange for the kids to participate in the “Adopt a Village” program drove three hours from his home in Wisconsin, to share stories with those Taylors Falls students on how much their kind actions meant to Afghan children.
Army Reservist August Hohl, “Augie” and his wife Deb talked with about 40 fifth graders.
Hohl returned from his tour of duty in Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago, after nine months with the Combined Joint Task Force 180, stationed at Bagram Military Base.
Hohl presented the Taylors Falls classes with two discs of electronic photos of Afghanistan, with many pictures taken in the village where their donations were distributed.
The Army Reservist also presented Mrs. Klinke and Mrs. Spray with Humanitarian Assistance medals, a certificate, and an American flag that had flown over the Bagram military base in Afghanistan.
Hohl explained when the Taliban forces were in control, girls never attended school in Afghanistan and could be killed for doing so.
Things are changing gradually, but school supplies are non-existent and school buildings are lacking in even the basics. Hohl said school now is half-a-day sessions, so the youngsters can still contribute to family livlihoods-- like herding, gathering, or farming.
Hohl said teachers in Afghanistan are months behind in getting paychecks, but they will teach for no charge if family members can be employed at the military base.
Afghan citizens hired from near Bagram do cleaning and other chores and serve as interpreters for the U.S. military. They’ll earn between $5 and $20 per day, which Hohl said is a decent wage there.
He described how poor the people are and how a child will make a “toy” from the odd piece of wood, or assembly of trinkets. “It’s a hard country to grow up in,” he shared.
Hohl explained that the goals in Afghanistan now are to re-build the country’s water and electric supply and solidify the Afghan National Army. There’s a coalition of nations training and organizing the National Army to allow for planned summer 2005 elections.
The United States through “Operation Enduring Freedom” is helping to set up a new form of governance and rid the country of the warlords who control some 30 provinces.
Hohl said not all who benefit from the corruption, though, are willing to abandon the old ways.
Hohl, of Mosston, Wisconsin, has 26 years in the Army and reserves and has worked as a teacher himself.
The Adopt-a-Village program was publicized through the Community Affairs division of the Army. Mrs. Spray told Hohl she saw an article about him and the Adopt-a-Village donation program, and that’s how the Taylors Falls classrooms became involved.