ZABUL PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
Written by Sfaff Sgt. Christopher Blakeslee and Sgt. Luke Rollins
SHINKAI DISTRICT, Afghanistan – Three years ago in Kabul province, Afghanistan, a young Marine and Richmond Hill, Ga., native, Capt. Matthew Freeman, encountered firsthand the Afghan people’s hunger for education. The villagers he met during foot patrols clamored for pens and paper above even food and water, prompting him to ask his mother, Lisa Freeman, to send him school supplies.
Two days later, Capt. Freeman was killed in action.
To continue his legacy, Mrs. Freeman formed founded the “The Matthew Freeman Project: Pens and Paper for Peace” in Oct. 2010 to collect and distribute educational materials to children in war-torn areas worldwide.
Three years later, Third Infantry Division Soldiers from Task Force Falcon and Combined Task Force Raider combined to carry on Capt. Freeman’s legacy and deliver supplies Feb. 6 to a school in the Shinkai district of Zabul province, Afghanistan.
Two Falcon Soldiers and Richmond Hill natives, Chief Warrant Officers 5 Martin Calkins and Randy Godfrey, coordinated to bring the supplies to Kandahar Airfield. Calkins is a personal friend of Bonnie Parker, Freeman’s neighbor and executive director, and together the three arranged for the shipment of more than 150 lbs. of pens, paper and books.
Bravo Company soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Cavalry Regiment, Combined Task Force Raider brought the supplies to an educational shura in the Shinkai district.
Farouq Sahki, a teacher at the local school, said the supplies were much-needed.
“We have more than 260 students, and until now we had no paper, pencils or pens for them,” said Sahki. “This is a great start for the New Year.”
Word of Capt. Freeman’s sacrifice and his desire to educate Afghans has spread throughout the Shinkai district, said 3rd Lt. Hamayon Gihozar, the district deputy chief of police.
“I have heard the story of Capt. Freeman and wish to honor his memory… by enforcing school hours in this district,” said Gihozar.
The Matthew Freeman Project works wherever American service members can deliver supplies, said Proctor, and aims to foster a thirst for knowledge in the earliest stages of a child’s life to generate progress in countries.
The organization worked with Calkins and Task Force Falcon during its last Afghanistan deployment. Chief Warrant Officer 5 Godfrey said he was proud to help his hometown project advance the mission here in Afghanistan.
“It’s an honor assisting in this mission, especially since educating today’s youth is so crucial to Afghanistan’s future security and independence,” said Godfrey.
A fact not lost on 3rd Lt. Gihozar and the people of the Shinkai district.
“Education was important to [Capt. Freeman], and it is to us as a nation,” said Gihozar. “If we wish to succeed we must ensure our children have a strong and solid education.”
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This work, Marne soldiers realize a fallen Marine’s dream to educate Afghans, by SSG Christopher Blakeslee, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.