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Marriage Celebration

09/09/10 7:55AM By Larry Doane
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Report From Afghanistan

Staff Sergeant Carl Smith, Captain Larry Doane, and First Sergeant Sam Morris on Forward Operating Base Four Corners before conducting a joint security patrol with the Afghan National Army
(Host) This week, we're looking at the Vermont National Guard's deployment to Afghanistan from a soldier's perspective with Captain Larry Doane, a VPR commentator. 

In today's entry, he describes joining a celebration for an Afghan marriage.

(Doane) Saving enough money to get married can be the major obstacle to a young Afghan man's happiness. 

The interpreters assigned to my unit are no different.  They're all trying to save enough money for a wedding and prove themselves to a potential bride's family.  It's what drives many of them to continue to work with us, despite the danger and long hours. 

My ‘terps', as we've come to call them, are a brave lot and take the same risks my own troops take.  The nickname itself is a term of endearment around here and carries the same dignity as our own makeshift titles of ‘grunt' or ‘doc'. 

One night, as our day winds down two of the terps approach me with a request and an invitation.  The request is simple.  They need a tent to throw a party.  The invitation comes in the same breath.  Would I like to attend an Afghan engagement party?  As I raise my eyebrows one of the other interpreters interjects.  "It's like a bachelor party!  We must celebrate that he has finally found a wife!" 

Later that night I find myself in a very different place than anything else I've experienced so far in Afghanistan.  Indian and Persian music fills the tent, occasionally punctuated with the odd Madonna or other American pop song.  Afghan men are far less concerned with western "macho" ideas than my own troops are.  We quickly discover one example of this.  The ‘man dance'. 

In a scene that I can't ever imagine happening in my world back home, our tent is filled with Afghan men dancing and laughing together.  Glitter and confetti are everywhere as the celebration continues. 

The dancing is strange mix of traditional local styles and things they could have only seen on MTV.  I'm initially uncomfortable with the sight, but the sheer hilarity and joy of the event takes over and soon I'm laughing and clapping along.  I manage to stay on the sidelines while some of my troops are dragged into the circle.  And for a little while all of us get a break from the stress and the worry of this war, courtesy of the Afghan man dance. 

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