US Troops Risk Their Lives to Build a Road in Northern Afghanistan at the 'Tip of the Spear'

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Back on base, Schachman met with a local contractor working on the road, who has finally been able to travel it in order to get paid.

"I know every day hasn't been easy, but you guys have hung in there and with everything that's been going on and helping with the road," Schachman told him.

2nd Lt. Lauren Lucky brought the contractor his pay in stacks of Afghanis - worth $69,952 U.S. dollars. A lot of money, but nothing compared to the cost illustrated a few feet away on the Wolfhound Heroes Wall, a wall full of names and pictures of those who have died.

The next name to be added will be Sgt. Houston Taylor, who was killed on Oct. 13 in an intense battle that was part of Operation Rugged Sarak. Capt. Tim Blair, who was also involved in the firefight, was the commander of the first four Wolfhounds killed. Their MRAP vehicle was blown up by an IED, which Blair said he was later told was intended for a different vehicle -- his.

Schachman said he remembers the bodies coming back to base after it happened.

"There is that split second that you are happy" that it wasn't you, he admitted, that it's "not your wife and kids, and then you feel like a horrible person because you thought that, and then you think about their family."

The motto of the Wolfhounds: "No fear on Earth." In this valley, the Wolfhounds and their Afghan Army counterparts are inviting targets to the enemy. In recent months, enemy fire on the base has killed four Afghan troops and wounded 20 others.

The Arab Spring, the death of Osama bin Laden, all of that seems so far away at Forward Operating Base Bostick, where concerns are more parochial. It is for the road that these men and women risk their lives and for the road that they are far away from their loved ones.

Edwards said he recently apologized to his wife and three kids for having gone a few weeks without calling them. He was in the thick of Operation Rugged Serak.

"My son Josh just laughed and said, 'Tell Dad, don't worry about it. He's fighting a war. He needs to worry about the guys and bringing them home,'" Edwards said. "They remember going to funerals and memorial services since they were in the first grade."

Given the loss of life and separation from his family, the fact that eight Wolfhounds have been killed so far, a ninth committed suicide, and still others might fall, is building the road worth it?

"It's difficult to put a value on the loss of a father or a husband or someone's son or daughter," Edwards said. "I think the biggest thing is you want to make sure their sacrifice was not in vain. We are making progress and we are making a difference and I think that helps us resolve it a bit, but it's still very difficult and I don't know if it's going to be worth it. Time will tell, ultimately."

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