I walked into the conference room with a stack of papers up to my neck, containing endless questions waiting to be answered. I couldn't remember which kids belonged to which parents, since we met with so many large families from Afghanistan.
In this particular meeting, I was met with a joyful little boy. He was maybe two or three years old. He didn’t speak English, but I could communicate with him by handing him lollipops and colored markers so he could draw smiley faces on the papers at the office. As he drew, his parents began to tell us their harrowing and heartbreaking story. The father relayed his many years of helping the U.S. military in Afghanistan as a mechanic. He worked on U.S. military airplanes and helicopters. As an Afghan ally to the United States, he was told he would be rewarded not only in steady pay, but in the promise that the United States would keep him and his family safe from the seemingly unending violence.
I took painstaking notes of every single place that he had ever lived, every job that he had ever had, and every story I could write down. We did this to prove to the United States government that he not only deserved to be in America, but that returning to Afghanistan would mean certain death for himself and his family. I glanced at the young boy as he drew smiley faces on those sheets of paper. I began to tear up. I turned to my mentor and excused myself to make sure that no one saw me cry. I ran outside to get a calming breath of air to regain my senses. From the outside, I looked calm. I looked professional. I looked just fine. But on the inside, my heart was screaming.
Before this summer internship, I had many preconceived notions about the war in
Afghanistan. Most of these preconceived notions were a result of the political views and experiences of my family and friends. I'm proud to say that I have had many people in my family serve in the U.S. military, not only in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, but in almost every conflict since the creation of our nation. I take great pride in my family's bravery and have been blessed to gain insight on many difficult international topics.
The Afghan refugees who I met with during my internship were strong and resilient. The beauty of their culture beamed through in the conversations that I had with them. I interviewed Afghan pilots and mechanics who fixed tanks and military vehicles for the U.S. military. I met bodyguards who worked in the U.S. embassy in Kabul and ex-soldiers who fought alongside and protected U.S. service men and women. Hearing their stories made me want to learn more about our world and helped me to realize the importance of hearing diverse perspectives. Our world, especially with politics and war, is much more complex than I thought, and I realize there are many sides to a story. I have grown from this experience and it has helped me mature in having a global perspective.
Through this experience, I found a passion and drive that I know I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I want to dedicate my life to service to others. Whether that is through non-profit work, law, or military service, I look forward to expanding my knowledge of the world around me.