Londoners bid farewell

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
What makes the villages of East Anglia, the region north of London, such centers of good will and kindness, and when will similarly-populated villages in Afghanistan rise to that level?

There's no clear answer on the latter, only a continual struggle to bring peace to that region. However, here in eastern England, anyone can see that it's the people who make this countryside tick.

As a foreign serviceman, or known affectionately as a "yank," I'm often surprised at how generously those in my village accept me. There's no doubt that most of the Red Lodge, Suffolk, locals see me as one of their own. But what happened down in the north-eastern part of London recently blew my mind.

Danny, a fellow Red Lodge resident and friend of mine who grew up down in the land famed by movies like the "Green Street Hooligans," took me down to his long-time favorite pub in Ilford, King George V, to watch a West Hamm United soccer game.

Admittedly, I was both excited and a bit intimidated to watch a mighty Hammers game in an area famed by gangster movies. However, that night, gangs were nowhere to be seen.

In fact, from what I saw, the only difference in East London and East Anglia was the busyness of their streets and traffic congestion. Kindness and kinship proved equal and, with the imminent battles of war on the growingly near horizon, this dose of humanity was a much-needed medicine.

Man after man and woman after woman, people approached me the entire night expressing their respect for our troops and our sacrifices. While reading this stateside, 'our' may mean 'American' to many. Over here, 'our' is the very international interoperability that holds our nations together when the bleakest hellfire of war should surely tear us apart.

Yet it never does.

Being a foreigner in this land, I'm always amazed at how revered American servicemembers are. I'm lucky to live among people who are grateful to the alliance we share. God knows I'm grateful.

In fact, I'm fairly certain that soldiers wearing the Union Flag on their shoulders will be fighting side by side with my lot, just as we did in 2008, the last time I was in Afghanistan. That helps me sleep at night.

Sleep ... isn't that an ironic word?

I plainly admit that each night isn't as restful as others. However this week's been a good one.

This week I discovered that from the wee villages of East Anglia to the bustling east side of London, Britons wished me the best.

If I can live up to that, if I can truly give the people of Afghanistan my best and others do too, then maybe we've found an answer to that latter question. Maybe there is hope, and perhaps someday the villages of that war-ridden land will not be much different than the small towns of ours.