by Stacey Djou www.Djou.com
As you know, Charles left for Afghanistan about a month ago to support Operation Enduring Freedom. Since then, we have been truly overwhelmed by the kindness of so many – from the hundreds of thoughtful emails and letters to the home-cooked meals – we are reminded how fortunate we are to be surrounded by such good friends. Campaigns can be really tough, but they bring the blessing of friendships that we could have never imagined. So, thank you from the bottom of our hearts to each and every one of you, who sent us an email or letter, stopped me on the street to say hello, or supported Charles’ campaign in a time when he is not able to do it himself. Your kindness has meant more to us than you could ever know.
People often ask me how Charles is doing, so I thought I’d update you on his activities. In Afghanistan, Charles has been handling detainee operations.
His job is to review whether individuals captured on the battlefield are likely Taliban insurgents and thus should be kept as detainees. The area where Charles’ unit is located has a high level of kinetic activity, meaning that the unit is engaging the enemy on a daily basis. The base is involved in active military operations that go on every day. Apparently the Taliban fight so hard in this region, because it is where much of the opium and cannabis are grown. Opium and cannabis, which are used to make heroin and hashish, are the cash source for the Taliban’s operations.
In terms of lifestyle, Charles, like most of his unit, works 18-hour days (he wakes up at 6 am and often works past midnight). On the weekends, he gets to sleep in, meaning that he can wake up at 8 am and work past midnight. The men that Charles works with give new meaning to the term “hard work.” They dedicate their lives to the job at hand and make tremendous sacrifices in the process.
In terms of living conditions, Charles sleeps in a tent with seven other soldiers. There’s no privacy, and his personal space consists of a bed and a foot locker. There are no regular bathrooms – just port-a-pottys – and the closest one to Charles’ tent is a five-minute walk. Interestingly, the detainees in the base’s detention facility have nicer amenities than Charles. They have real bathrooms - not port-a-pottys - and their cells have more living space than what Charles has in his tent, as the detention facilities are required to comply with NATO regulations for humane treatment in holding enemy combatants.
Charles and I try to speak daily, but aren’t always able to. We recently came off a 4-day period where we weren’t able to speak because of several communications blackouts, which occur whenever there is a death or serious injury in the unit, to allow the next of kin to be notified. For those of you who know us personally, you know that Charles and I are almost inseparable. Even when he was in Congress and I was here at home with the kids, he would call me, often several times a day, and would fly home to Hawaii every weekend. Wondering when Charles will call again, and then hearing time and time again that another soldier was killed or injured brings me to tears every single time; those words I’ll never become accustomed to.
I miss Charles dearly. I sometimes think there really isn’t a Stacey without a Charles. But, I know that my husband is relatively safe especially as compared to so many of his fellow soldiers, who actively confront the enemy, and who are in harm’s way on a regular basis. I thank all of you for your kind words, and I ask that you continue to keep Charles and the men and women he serves with in your thoughts and prayers.
And, if you have some time to give, or can contribute to the campaign financially, I know Charles would appreciate any help and support you can give to his campaign team. Click here to volunteer, or here to make a contribution, however large or small, it will make a difference – as it demonstrates to the political pundits that even though Charles isn’t here, he has a broad base of support.
Mahalo for all you do and all you’ve done for us.
With gratitude and fond aloha,