News: My Afghanistan: Educating the force
Story by Spc. Melissa Parrish
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – At the age of 12, Lyla was nearly sold by her father into marriage.
For nine years she lived a strict Muslim life in Virginia. Her father worked for the U.N. and relocated the family in the early 1980s to escape the ongoing violence that was plaguing Afghanistan.
When her father’s job took him back to their home country to work in the education sector, he had planned an arranged marriage for young Lyla.
Afghan culture dictates young females must be looked after by a man, and her mother, not wanting her to go, held no weight in an Afghan household, Lyla said.
Luckily, her brother, a 19-year-old U.S. Navy corpsman at the time, stepped in and said he would look after his young sister. Her father agreed and went alone to Afghanistan where he was murdered shortly after he arrived.
The room was silent as M. Lyla Kohistany told her story to the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) soldiers and their spouses Feb. 7 on Fort Bragg.
Kohistany, a former U.S. Navy Surface Warfare officer, travels the country teaching Americans about Afghanistan. She hopes her briefings will not only educate the military and their family members, but also show them the importance of an American presence.
“I know that a lot of Americans know why we went to Afghanistan, but I don’t think they understand why we have continued to stay focused on Afghanistan” Kohistany said.
“When we look at some of the most recent cases where there have been failed attempts on attacks toward the U.S., we know what we are doing is making a difference,” she said. “So even if you’re not focused on our specific efforts currently in Afghanistan, I think the American population needs to understand our long-term objective, which is to make sure America is safe from another terrorist attack.”
It is just as important to educate the family members of the military, Kohistany added.
“Spouses have to endure hardship also, and they need to know what it is their loved one is going to do and how important it is,” she said.
Bailey Defibaugh, wife of U.S. Army Sgt. Justin Defibaugh, attended the briefing to learn more about the country her husband would soon be deploying to. This will be the first deployment experience for the newlyweds.
“Most of my knowledge of Afghanistan is from the news,” said Bailey. “I definitely think her telling us the history of the country and why the people are the way they are helped me understand the situation more and painted a bigger picture for me.”
Although Bailey said she is not looking forward to the deployment, hearing about the progress being made in Afghanistan made her feel like her husband and the Soldiers are making a difference.
“It is not our job to change the Afghan people or to say our way of doing things is better,” she said. “If we can help guide them into a more peaceful way of life, then it is a good thing.
“I understand that a lot of people there don’t feel that way but knowing my husband will be able to help and to make a difference makes me feel good. I really appreciate the Family Readiness Group for inviting me out to this briefing and letting us have the opportunity to learn more about Afghanistan.”
During the briefing, Kohistany answered questions from the group. She gave the soldiers and their family member’s valuable information, and she welcomed their questions with a smile.
Kohistany has a unique perspective, because she was raised in the U.S., but in an Afghan household. She also deployed to Afghanistan while serving as a Navy officer.
Her upbringing and her time in the military inspires her to do this kind of job, she said.
“I just have a deep admiration and respect for what our uniformed military personnel have to endure,” said Kohistany. “I want to make sure these soldiers have enough knowledge to be able to bring everyone home safely.”