GAMBRILLS, Md. (AP) — Many local families have loved ones serving overseas in trouble spots like Afghanistan, but few have two.
Recently, two members of the Myers family of Gambrills, father and son, served there — but in very different capacities.
Dave Myers is the University of Maryland Extension Agent for Anne Arundel County who spent a few weeks in Afghanistan teaching vegetable growing and marketing to his co-horts from across the war-torn country.
His son, Sgt. Andy Myers, 23, was serving about 500 miles from the site of his father’s agricultural effort in a U.S. Marine Corps Recon unit holding down an outpost in the Sangin Valley in Helman Province.
Sgt. Myers returned home this month after a seven-month deployment. He arrived at his home base in Okinawa in late November and reunited with his wife Elizabeth and their 10-month-old son. After a 20-day leave stateside, he’ll return to his island post. But he believes he will be re-assigned to a post back on U.S. soil soon.
Both see their efforts aiding the overall U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
“We’re the sword and the plow,” Dave Myers said.
While Sgt. Myers struggled daily to win the hearts and minds of Afghanis in the troubled south-central region of the country, his father was in Jalalabad for a conference about the farming needs in the country where 70 percent of the population still works in agriculture.
“It seems like an impossible endeavor. Well, almost impossible trying to have a sustained agricultural program, a good economic and market development when you are constantly under conditions of war,” Dave Myers said.
There is still plenty of agriculture going on, especially growing poppies, the basis of the heroin industry generating money for the Taliban. But Myers and the consortium of American and western agricultural experts see a good basis for the country to move forward farm-wise.
“They realize that if they can get some technological advances (in place) they can be more productive in no time,” he said.
While modern techniques could help, Myers saw old farming infrastructure and methods still doing the job. “It was neat to see old irrigation canals, some probably built 1,000 years old still working. They still use oxen, and I saw interesting hand tools that likely go back to the very first blacksmiths.”
But he sees hope in modernizing the farm economy. “With 70 percent of the people still involved in agriculture, most in
subsistence farming it would not take that much technological input to have a big impact.”
He is also proud of the impact his son’s mission had. If successful, father and son think the Afghani people will be
able to turn from bombs to bread.
Down in the Sangin Valley in Northern Helmand province Sgt. Myers unit saw combat nearly daily, more so in the spring and summer. “Small arms fire” for the most part, he said.
He and fellow Marines from his Charlie Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion also wandered their sector daily making
contact with the local population, trying to earn their trust.
“The biggest thing we are doing is trying to get them on our side and they started to trust us a lot,” the South River High
School wrestling champion and 2006 graduate said.
He went into the Marines right out of high school and was in Iraq the next year. Afghanistan was his second tour.
He said he could see the local population appreciated Marines clearing out IED bombs which allowed them to keep farming and surviving.
The way he knew locals were coming around was simple: “They gave us information about the Taliban,” he said. “They trusted us enough to give us that information.”
Information that could easily spell a death sentence at the hands of the Taliban.
He and commanders alike believe success comes from seeking out the bad guys among the local population.
“Some say, ‘Why don’t you just drop a bomb on them?’ ” (meaning a group of people in a small area like a village) Sgt.
Myers said. “That is just silly. Obviously there are good people there. I know it for a fact there are good people out there. You can’t just drop a bomb, you have to go in and find the bad guys.”
That’s what Marines are trained to do.
His father hopes the people there will come to see some of the freedoms democracy bring.
“A lot of sacrifice had been made for those freedoms, even if some people do not think them important.”
None of those folks live at the Myers’ house. Andy’s older brother serves as an Anne Arundel County police officer in the
Dad has been working to save and grow agriculture in Maryland and elsewhere. He has made other trips overseas to spread his knowledge in Russia and other places.
The family’s daughter still attends South River High. But this week, global policy aside, there is something else
going on, all are home for Christmas.
Hard to beat that.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)