JUNCTION, Texas – More than 10,000 miles away from home, four Afghan National Army wounded soldiers sit with their sergeant major and some American men and women in the heart land of America for a weeklong seminar, March 31- April 3, 2015, to learn skills that will better enable them to take care of their Afghan brothers wounded in combat.
A few hours northeast of San Antonio lies ‘Eagle’s Summit Ranch,’ a 250-acre property owned by the Roever Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on supporting the U.S. military, providing assistance to wounded warriors, hosting educational workshops, and providing public speaking opportunities for veterans.
This week, Dave Roever, President and Founder of Operation Warrior RECONnect, along with his staff, provide techniques to help build self-esteem among the warriors through mentoring, team-building, and therapeutic activities. The special operations commandos also receive educational opportunities and tools for overcoming and coping with new physical and mental injuries.
Unlike the U.S., Afghanistan does not have benevolent care centers for their veterans. When injured in combat, Afghan soldiers receive a one-time pension, are forced to retire, and often left to fend for themselves. The goal of Afghan National Army Command Sgt. Maj. Faiz Mohammad Wafa, the top enlisted leader of Afghanistan’s National Army Special Operations Command, is to change that.
Wafa is determined to start an organization similar to U.S. Special Operations Command’s Care Coalition, where wounded soldiers and their families receive the support they need from their nation, their community, their service, and their family and friends. Wafa and his four commandos, with the help of the Roever Foundation, will form the groundwork of a new wounded warrior program in Afghanistan.
Wafa said having a program to support the country’s wounded warriors is critical to the ANA’s continued success.
“Without the wounded warrior program, we can’t train more heroes,” he said. “Our army is volunteers; if they don’t see support, they would leave.”
Roever, a Vietnam wounded warrior himself, knows the challenges these men face all too well, and said despite language barriers and some cultural differences, there are many similarities between the commandos and U.S. Soldiers.
“I look at them as bonafide heroes who have gone way above and beyond,” said Roever, who is more than willing to help turn Wafa’s dream into a reality.
One of the first lessons at the ranch is teaching and encouraging the commandos to share their stories with others.
Roever said being able to talk about their injuries is part of the healing process for these men.
“They are the faces of Afghanistan’s wounded warriors,” he said.
Afghan National Army SGT Safi Mirwais knew from a young age he wanted to help his country by fighting for Afghanistan’s freedom from the Taliban. That desire led him to join ANASOC. Now, years later, Mirwais sits with his brothers and new American friends and shares his story for the first time.
“When I took a step I didn’t know there was something there, it seemed like a bomb went off and a small ditch was formed,” said Mirwais. “I was screaming for help and an American Soldier jumped on me, held me and carried me to the helicopter,” he continued.
Three months into his assignment with the special operations kandak in Kandahar, Mirwais stepped on an improvised explosive device while clearing buildings on a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol. As a result, he lost his right leg below the knee.
“I am a patriot. I don’t care that I lost my leg or if I lose my other leg; my job is to fight for Afghanistan’s freedom,” he professed.
After his experience at the ranch, Mirwais said he no longer feels alone and no longer feels like his life is ruined.