Retired Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former U.S. commander in Afghanistan who ate just one meal a day, ran eight miles daily and slept only four hours a night, hated the boardwalk, especially the fast food. It made troops soft. His command sergeant major, Michael T. Hall, once wrote a blog post denouncing it. “This is a war zone – not an amusement park,” he said.
But even McChrystal couldn’t kill it, and he was in charge of the whole war then.
The end of the American combat presence will, however, leaving behind only memories of the oddest little corner of a war, a place replete with donkey-borne bombs and elementary schools landscaped with marijuana plants.
“It’s a fantasy,” said Spec. Michael Renfro of Crestview, Fla. “People are walking around like they’re on vacation, but while I was there, there was a suicide car bomb right outside that killed three soldiers, and there were rocket attacks all the time.”
Renfro, 27, passed through the base early this year on his way east to tackle one of the most dangerous remaining jobs for U.S. troops here, clearing the roads of improvised bombs. During his stay in Kandahar, he tried to stay away from the boardwalk.
“Me, I don’t like it,” he said. “It’s a money trap.”
Dolan, the base commander, has a different take. The boardwalk, he says has played a crucial role in maintaining morale since its beginnings in 2003 at a different location on base.
“I am proud of the rich history and the wonderful services that many nations have provided coalition forces over the years,” Dolan said. “The boardwalk is a part of (Kandahar Airfield’s) identity and exists as a cornerstone in the collective memory of the men and women who have served here since it was built.”
They’ll all remember the boardwalk differently, but they’ll remember.