Ever since 9-11 Alaska's official balladeer Hobo Jim, has wanted to be part of the war against terrorism. Last month Jim got his wish and with help from officials at Ft. Rich in Anchorage he obtained permission to travel to Afghanistan at his own expense to entertain the fighting men and women of the U.S. Army 501st Parachute Infantry. Last week Hobo returned with a little different perspective than those who only know what they see or hear on the nightly news, "The moral is excellent and our soldiers are doing very well. Of course our Alaskan guys in the 501st are looking forward to coming home, they've been there since November, but they are there to do a job and they are happy to do it," Hobo Jim told the Soldotna Rotary Club last week.
While in Afghanistan Hobo was able to do five shows at five different fire bases and then spent 12 days in the field with the troops, where many of his shows were one on one or two or three for those who happened to be out or on duty when he did his show. It wasn't like a USO Bob Hope show, Jim said he just got out his guitar and sang until they told him to stop, "They were so appreciative just for a couple of songs, it humbled me, because they are giving us so much," said Jim.
Contrary to most media reports, Hobo said he found the Afghan's to be very positive towards the U.S. and what we are doing in their country, "There's still a lot of trouble there, and just like Iraq, it's a dangerous place, and we saw it all while I was there, rocket attacks, suicide bombings, but it's too easy to take it out of context and make it look horrible. I'd say 90 percent of the people in Afghanistan absolutely love us, they'll run through the desert for half a mile in the heat just to greet a convoy and give you thumbs up. It's the only peace they've known, they've always been under oppression and they're breathing free now. It's only a small minority I'd guess about 10 percent where all the trouble is coming from, and everywhere we're confronting them the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are loosing, everytime we fight them they loose, we are making progress and we are winning. The only people there who don't appreciate us are those we are putting out of power. The people are starting to believe that we are going to stay and tough it out, and as long as they know we have the resolve they turn in the Taliban and the weapon caches and it's working," added Jim.
Looking to the future however, Jim doesn't believe that Afghanistan will adopt what we would call a free democracy, "It'll be different from what we would call democracy, they'll probably adopt a parliamentary procedure and somewhat of a secular government, but it'll still be controlled by the warlords over there," said Jim. Hobo was also adamant about an early pull out, "That would be the worst thing we could possibly do especially in Afghanistan. If we were to pull out right now, then all the people, the 90 percent I was talking about that have helped us and support us would be slaughtered by the Taliban and the terrorists that would flood back in." Hobo has promised to write a new song for the 501st in honor of the work they are doing in Afghanistan, and he is making plans to return to Afghanistan as well as visit the troops in Iraq this fall. He was no sooner back in Alaska, then he was singing at BJ's and even dropping by the Soldotna Sports Center to sing "The Iditarod Song" especially for Mitch Seavey, 2004 Iditarod Champion from Sterling, on his official day April 24th.
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