Angels in Afghanistan

Has anyone here seen angels?

Mashala

Hello Spencer. This is Naveed Safi from Kabul. As you may know, the situation in Afghanistan is very bad. Me and my family are in danger and I need your help. Spencer Sekyer was not a soldier, government official, or aid worker. A small-town Canadian school teacher, his passions, besides teaching, were animal rescue and exploring the world, making strong connections with people of other cultures. He was known for his rescue of a chimpanzee in an Iraqi zoo that, with the help of Jane Goodall, was rehomed in a sanctuary in Africa. That story became the subject of his bestselling book Saving Manno. In the summer of 2021, as the world’s eyes were riveted by heartbreaking scenes of desperate Afghans trying to leave their country as Western troops departed and the Taliban took over, Spencer received a chilling email from an old friend. So begins Mashala, the harrowing adventure of an everyman’s efforts to rescue the Safi family, which pulls him from rural Canada to Afghanistan, to Pakistan, and into the clutches of the Taliban. The dilemma that is at the center of the book: How does a Westerner navigate the gray area between helping and harming? Between interference, with its echoes of colonialism, and the moral obligation to harness privilege to uplift, to rescue? The book moves from the receipt of Naveed’s email, back in time to 2010 Afghanistan, where Spencer spent his summer vacation teaching street children at Aschiana, a school in Kabul. This is where Spencer befriends Naveed, the handsome, charismatic school administrator, as well as Sayed, one of his housemates, and a family of stray dogs. Sayed informs Spencer that the Taliban is trying to track him down and asks for Spencer’s help in bringing him and his family to North America. Back home in rural Canada, Spencer throws himself into efforts to help both Sayed and the dogs. He goes through the channels of the Canadian government but is unsuccessful in bringing Sayed to the country. Sayed ultimately finds refuge in the U.S., but his father, who is left behind, is killed by the Taliban. Spencer successfully rescues the dogs, attracting some scorn from those who accuse him of putting more value in animal lives than human ones. The book jumps to August 2021 and the email from Naveed and then invites Naveed and his wife Mashala, to tell their own stories, in their points of view, in two separate chapters. Naveed recounts his life as both an administrator and a lawyer, the go-to man to lead important dignitaries and VIPs like Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Angelina Jolie on tours of the school. He describes finding his perfect partner in the beautiful Mashala, the blissful years of their family life. Mashala, a schoolteacher at Aschiana, takes up the family story nine years after her marriage, when threats from the Taliban for teaching girls culminates in a vicious attack when she is walking home. The threats continue including one particularly sinister text: “See what we did with you? Next will be your children.” Determined to get the Safi family asylum, Spencer assembles an unlikely team of animal rescuers, government officials, and mercenary groups to assist him in evacuating them from the sinister and perilous clutches of the rogue regime taking over the country. Spencer must interpret and navigate a complicated series of warnings, counter warnings, and contradictory directions, in an attempt to guide the family onto a plane in Kabul in the last days of the American evacuation. Naveed tells a harrowing account of the Taliban’s arrival in Kabul, and his family’s success at reaching the airport only to be caught in the crossfire between the Taliban forces and the Americans. Facing resistance at every turn, and with Taliban closing in, Spencer returns to Afghanistan to accompany the family to a safe house in Pakistan, but things do not go as planned. The danger persists. While many stories of Afghan rescue and survival are entering bookshelves and media outlets, Mashala will be told from the perspective of an ordinary person whose empathy transforms to action. It is a testament to the bonds of friendship across time and countries, what teamwork can accomplish, and the truth that every one of us has the power to save lives and make a difference.

American Airman: A Memoir of a Wounded Veteran

American Airman is a story of vulnerability and resiliency. This story bears witness to the men and women who, in fighting for our rights and freedoms, make unimaginable sacrifices and then must search for a new normal after that sacrifice becomes reality.

Into the Upper Country

Historical fiction in the vein of Bernard Cornwell and Wilbur Smith. This fast-paced adventure dives into a period of Colonial America much overlooked and often forgotten.

The Armed Forces and American Social Change: An Unwritten Truce

"The Armed Forces and American Social Change: An Unwritten Truce" is a powerful depiction of black Americans’ struggle for equality told through the lens of uniformed military service. Troy Mosley uses superb storytelling, personal vignettes, and historical examples to show how millions of Americans have lifted themselves from oppression through opportunities gleaned from military service. Collectively, these efforts exerted positive outward pressure on American society, which by and large has resisted social change.

Dearest Babe, Letters from a World War II Flight Surgeon

Epistolary memoir of Capt. Joe W. King, M.C.

My Spiritual Markers

While leading my squad on patrol, I hear a faint metallic click at my foot...then the explosion. Instantly, I am traveling through the air, my helmet is traveling in one direction, my rucksack previously strapped to my body is traveling in another direction. I can see visions of my life moving slowly before my eyes in what seemed like an eternity. I feel suspended in time. There is no sound around me. My body is stunned as I go in and out of consciousness. While in this state of life and death, I remember praying, “God, please don’t let me die!...I will devote my life to you and humanity!”

Those Left Behind

The war was almost over for 15 soldiers in Vietnam. Some were going home, and some on R&R to meet their wives. A quick ride to Cu Chi Base Camp and they would be on their way. But disaster struck. The Chinook was shot down in a horrific fireball. Some survived with horrible burns. This is their story and the story of the loved ones they left behind.

Jungle Combat: A Combat Pilot's Tape Recorded Transcripts from Vietnam 1968-1969

“It’s all here, from the drama of facing danger in combat, to the frustration of dealing with the military bureaucracy, to the excesses of exhausted Marines in drunken revelry. What follows is a chronological transcript of those tapes edited only for coherence, and not to protect the readers’ sensibilities. It reflects my extreme swings of mood—from fear and anxiety to grief and exhaustion to relief and exhilaration. The events described are sometimes barbarous, sometimes ridiculous and sometimes sublime, but they are always real. In the theater of war, life gushes forward at a heightened pace. But amid the cacophony and confusion, the discerning reader will hear the earnest sounds of a young man emerging into manhood. Be forewarned the language is sometimes raw and cruel, for which I make no apology. It is the honest language of who we were then, an audible snapshot of that hardest of times. Committing this story to paper has helped me come to terms with the war, and to put it in focus. It has become commonplace to describe the conflict there as a defeat, but those of us who took part in it have difficulty with that. We were never bested on the battlefield. Every time the enemy stood up to challenge us, we took the worst he had to offer and returned it with interest. Yet we were the ones who withdrew, not because we were defeated on the battlefield, but because of a failure of will among our political leadership. For a variety of reasons, the Vietnam conflict provoked a divisive cataclysm that ripped our society apart, and shook our nation to its very foundation. For me, the final evacuation was terrible humiliation. I thought of the brave men who had given their lives in the cause. Turning our backs and running away seemed to dishonor their sacrifice. It ran contrary to everything I had ever held fast and believed in, a betrayal of my values and heritage...” - Colonel John “Ace” Astle U.S.M.C. (Ret.) About the author: Bio of Col. John “Ace” Astle Love of country has guided John Astle throughout a career that has included service in the military, law enforcement, and the Maryland General Assembly. John was born in Charles Town, West Virginia on March 31, 1943. A year after graduating from Barboursville High School, Barboursville, West Virginia; John joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 1961. He was accepted into the Platoon Leaders Class Program and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts from Marshall University. Upon graduation in 1966, John joined the United States Marine Corps and received his commission as a Naval Aviator Officer flying helicopters. John served in the U.S. Marine Corps, Captain, 1966-75. It included serving in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot, 1968-69 and a tour as a Marine One Presidential helicopter pilot, 1971-74. His military service commendations include: the Legion of Merit, two Purple Hearts, the Meritorious Service Medal, 31 air medals and the Presidential Service Badge. After resigning his regular commission in 1975, John began a 21-year commitment with the Marine Corps Reserve. During that time, he volunteered and served five months active duty in the Persian Gulf War, Desert Storm. He retired as a Colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in 1996. John flew helicopter patrols for the Baltimore Police Department December 1978 through December 1984 then worked as a medical evacuation pilot for the Washington Hospital Center from 1985-2005. As an American politician, John continued his public service by serving the people of Maryland first as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing District 30, Anne Arundel County, January 1983 to January 11, 1995, and then as a member of the Maryland Senate, January 11, 1995 to January 9, 2019. A respected leader, John served as Vice-Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, where he played a key role in shaping state policy on energy, healthcare, banking and insurance. He also served as Chairman of the Anne Arundel County Senate Delegation, and as a member of the Joint Audit Committee, the Legislative Policy Committee and the Joint Information Technology and Biotechnology Committee. An avid sportsman and environmental advocate, John is a long-time supporter of the National Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. He spearheaded the creation of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus in 2001, which led to the creation of a National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses. He was a Senate Chair of the Maryland Caucus and a Past President of the national organization. John also served in key leadership positions with organizations working to restore the Chesapeake Bay, including a position on the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Board of Trustees. John is a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, National Rifle Association, Safari Club International and was an active member of the Maryland Veterans Caucus. He served as a Member of the Board of the Maryland Tourism Development Board, and Chairman of the Board of Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County. John lives in Annapolis, Maryland with his wife Jayne.

COMBAT CONTRAILS: VIETNAM

Eighteen true stories, told by the Vietnam warriors who lived them. Most have never been captured in print.

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