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Polish Col. Jacek Rolak, who was also in the convoy, wasn’t as hopeful. He joked with Maj. Espinoza and said he was grateful to be leaving Afghanistan.

“I’m not too sure things will work out the way we would like,” Col. Rolak said. ” I’m not sure what’s going to happen, or how good any strategy is in Afghanistan. Guess we just wait and see.”

U.S. troops here deal daily with death and injury, seeing comrades hurt and watching flag-draped coffins go through forward operating bases on their final trip home.

Many are also haunted by the faces of Afghan people the U.S. is trying to help.

In Kabul, Army Pvt. 2nd Class Logan Purtlebaugh sent e-mails to her family from the comfort of her bunk bed. Her Myrtle Beach pink blanket, books strewn on her bed and periodic breaks to brush her long, blond hair made the 19-year-old seem more like a university student in a dorm than a soldier in a barracks. The young chaplain’s assistant with the 82nd Airborne, 4th Brigade, at Camp Lindsey, not far from Kandahar Air Field, was on a nine-day break in the Afghan capital.

The policy debate back in Washington was not on the mind of this soldier from Bloomington, Ind.

Instead, she was thinking about the accidental death of an Afghan child she recently had witnessed in Kandahar.

“It’s the first time I’m dealing with death,” said Pvt. Purtlebaugh, who is on her first deployment. “I’ll never forget what happened.”

She folded down her laptop and stared into the darkness.

“He ran out in front of the MRAP [Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle], and there was no time for the driver to stop,” she said. “The little boy’s head was decapitated. It was horrible for everybody involved. Especially for the family of the boy.”

The young victim “seemed to be about the same age as my seven-year-old sister, Madison Purtlebaugh,” she said. “I really miss home, but this is where I want to be. I believe in the Afghan people. I have hope despite everything.”

Sgt. Coble urged Americans to think about the sacrifices U.S. troops have made in Aghanistan and the consequences of narrowing the mission before it has more time to succeed.

“We’re not just numbers,” she said. “I’m not going to say morale is high with everything going on at home. We’re here for a reason. This is not a draft military. When people go out on the streets in America and say, ‘Bring our troops home,’ it infuriates me. Don’t go out there talking about bringing our troops home, let us decide when to come back home. We’re here because we want our children, my son, to have a safer world, and we know the risks.”