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Rebuilt Afghan School Brightens Youths' Future

By Staff Sgt. Johnny A. Thompson, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

MEYAN SHAKH, Afghanistan, Jan. 16, 2004 – The $72,000 cost to rebuild Meanshakh High School was worth a million dollars if the looks of excitement and gratitude on students' faces factored in.

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Army Col. Mackey Hancock, Coalition Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force commander, joins Afghan dignitaries Jan. 14 in cutting the ribbon to open the renovated Meanshakh High School in Meyan Shakh, Afghanistan. Photo by Staff Sgt. Johnny A. Thompson, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"It is a great honor and pleasure to witness the opening of this much-needed school," said Army Col. Mackey Hancock, task force commander and a ceremony guest speaker. "The completion of this facility improves the educational capabilities of not only this community, but the region, and improves the overall education system of the nation."

More than 200 students, faculty members, Meyan Shakh elders, Afghan dignitaries and U.S. Army representatives attended.

"It was a wonderful feeling to be a part of the event that is significant to improving this country," said Army Maj. Carman Oldre, Parwan civil affairs team leader. "More than 1,200 children will get the opportunity to improve their future because of the high school. Education is so important to fundamental growth of children, and helping these children today means helping Afghanistan's future tomorrow."

Afghan dignitaries such as the director of education and Bagram's mayor praised the U.S. and coalition forces for their efforts. One speaker said he attended the high school decades before the Taliban destroyed it, and the school was the bedrock of his education. "What I learned here as a child helped me develop into the man I am today," he said.

One soldier said helping with projects such as the school's renovation has been "a humbling experience."

"There are areas in my life that were brought into perspective because of my opportunity to serve with the local citizens," Army Staff Sgt. Chelly Fuchs of the Parwan PRT said. "I saw people literally take nothing and make it into something, and that's something I'll never forget."

The ceremony concluded with a ribbon cutting that included the CJCMOTF commander and local Afghan dignitaries. But the spirit of the day continues to live in the hearts of the people who were there.

"We have a short time here, but the impression we make lasts a lifetime," said Oldre. "By our actions we can change perception, which changes behavior, and I think we were able to accomplish that with our efforts."

The four-month refurbishment configured the school with 11 classrooms and a bathroom. The team replaced 46 windows, 17 doors, the interior ceiling and the concrete walkways to the classrooms.

While the project was under way, students attended classes under tents provided by UNICEF.

(Army Staff Sgt. Johnny A. Thompson is assigned to the 4th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA soldier assigned to the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade chats with an Afghan girl as she enters the newly renovated Meanshakh High School in Meyan Shakh, Afghanistan, Jan. 14. Photo by Staff Sgt. Johnny A. Thompson, USA  
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