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Afghan unsung heroes

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All across Afghanistan, many coalition soldiers hold in high esteem "Rambo" and "Saber Rock." With names like these, you might think they are talking about young and brave soldiers who recently graduated from U.S. Army ranger school and are on their first combat deployment.

However, they extol two older Afghan men who have been bravely living through their country’s long struggle for freedom while working alongside the coalition for the past several years.

Rambo, whose real name is Jamal Undin, works hard to protect American forces on Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan. After more than 10 years of cold, wet winters and hot, dusty summers watching over the camp from the front gates, Rambo says he is ready to retire.

“I have been here since the Americans came here in 2001 and I am 46 years old,” said Rambo. “I start at 5 a.m. and go until late at night.”

Prior to 2001, Rambo worked in Afghanistan as a truck driver. He said he was once married, but his wife was killed more than 12 years ago when a Taliban rocket crashed into their apartment.

For a while, Rambo took his family out of the country and later returned when the coalition formed and set out to put Afghanistan back together.

“I worked near Camp Phoenix before the Americans came, but when they did, I volunteered to stay at the gate and make sure no one came on camp to harm the soldiers,” Rambo said.

After a decade of fulfilling his commitment to himself and the Americans, his face and body show the scars of enduring various degrees of hostility and unrest in Kabul. He has had more than one narrow escape while inspecting vehicles entering Camp Phoenix.

“I saw a suspicious car one day.” Rambo said. “The car driver was driving oddly so I ran over, swung open the door, and dragged the driver out before he knew it. In the back seat, was an explosive device.”

For his courage, Rambo received a call from then President George Bush. The president thanked him and asked him to visit the United States, he said, but he declined because he did not want to leave the work the loved doing.

While Rambo maintains a constant vigil at the gates of Camp Phoenix, another Afghan hero builds positive relationships with everyone he meets and offers the coalition valuable assistance as an interpreter and cultural awareness adviser at Camp Eggers.

Saber Rock started his work with the coalition in 2004 as an interpreter. Then in 2008, an improvised explosive device in Helmand province hit him and a group of Marines. He also shows the scars of battle. His hands, body and face are disfigured, but his healthy attitude keeps him strong, he said.

“I don’t care what happens, but I will always help the U.S. Forces. I promise,” Saber Rock said. “When I was hit by the IED, the Marines took care of me. They gave me blood from their own bodies. On the way to the hospital, my heart stopped beating and they started it again.”

Along with the unending love for the U.S. forces, Saber Rock also carries around more than 50 pieces of shrapnel throughout his body from his combat experiences.

Camp Eggers Base commander Col. Robert Woodmansee said, “Saber Rock has lots of experience. He has been here a long time and he is a wealth of information. He helps us understand Afghans and helps the Afghans understand us.”

Two different heroes and two different handles, but both have the same wish--to stand up and speak out as valued friends of the soldiers who came to their country to help make it safe and secure.

Article by Capt. Marvin Bake, 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade