Afghan Girl's Hug Touches Soldier
A little girl in Afghanistan hugged a serviceman from Southern Pines and helped him find new meaning in the war he's fighting.
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel D. Haynes is a communications specialist in the Air Force. He previously lived in Southern Pines and was stationed at Pope Air Force Base. Now he is in Afghanistan, but his family expects him home sometime this month.
Haynes sent a photo of himself with the little Afghan girl in an e-mail telling of his encounter with the child and her family.
"I had sat in view of this Afghan family for about two hours," Haynes said, describing a soldier's alert and wary situation. "I was a bit leery at first.
"This little girl came up to me and hugged me and said, 'Thank you.' She ran back to her brother and said something that I couldn't understand."
What followed was an ancient rite of -hospitality, as old as humanity: the simple sharing of bread and water.
"Her family brought me some bread while I was working," Haynes said. "So I gave them some bottled water that I had nearby."
"I had this sudden overwhelming sense of comfort and pride come over me and it was tugging at my heartstrings," Haynes said. "I'm not one to let my feelings show, (but) this situation just about brought me to tears."
That welcome, from a child and her family, to a soldier far from his own home, a stranger in their land, gave Haynes the answer he'd been looking for: a way to tell people here in America what this war means to at least one family over there.
"Everyone is always asking why we're in Afghanistan, and I personally could not give an answer that really expressed how I felt," he said. "The way this little girl approached me with no fear - just to give me a hug - assured the feeling of support from the Afghan -people."
The conflict that hit here on Sept. 11, 2001, has been a long one already, and the U.S. -presence there could last a good deal longer, he said.
"I know that there are a lot of things that I can't talk about," he wrote his family back home. "But I thought you would like to know that in this country filled with violence and corruption there are good people and things worth fighting for."
In February 2009, Haynes was transferred to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, and in September, deployed to Afghanistan. He is scheduled to return home this month.
His wife's grandfather, Ron Raines, came here to work for Pinehurst Resort in sales and marketing. In 1997, he and his wife, Wynn, started a family business, First Tee Golf Packages, putting together golf trips for people who want to play golf at resorts in the Sandhills.
Daughter Kelly Leach joined the family business in 2000. She has two daughters of her own: Colby and Kelsey, who both graduated from West Pine Middle School and Pinecrest High School.
"Kelsey is attending Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem and plans to be a nuclear medicine -specialist," Raines said. "Colby attended Sandhills Junior College and later worked for Carolina Eye Associates. Dann and Colby were married Oct. 11, 2008, at the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines."
Raines said he wanted to share the picture and the story with his hometown paper.
"I believe the photo of Dann and the little girl is an eye opener," Raines said. "We all shed a few tears upon reading his comments. Afghanistan is truly violent and corrupt. Can you trust anyone? The little girl's hug - and her family's sharing of bread with Dann - tells a great story of compassion and friendship."
Haynes was naturally on his guard in a combat zone, Raines said.
"You never know where- -danger will come from - he didn't say this, but he was apprehensive," Raines said. "You never know when it could be a kid or an adult. They could have a bomb on them. Then this little girl runs over and gives him a hug and says, 'Thank you.'
"What was so remarkable about this was the little girl just ran up to him and hugged him - then ran back and said something to her brother, and the family brought him bread. Dann had some water in some containers and gave them water. All of a sudden it was like, 'I like you.' I was impressed."
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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