A Jewish army medic spoke about his hazardous stint in Afghanistan at the opening meeting of B’nai B’rith social events group BB2545 in central London.
In four months in Helmand Province with the Royal Army Medical Corps last year, Captain Danny Sharpe cared for military colleagues, members of the Afghan Army and local residents, who often brought their children to him.
“We faced constant hazards from improvised explosive devices as we made our way around the villages,” he said. “There was unremitting daytime fire from the adjacent Taliban, which would begin after the morning prayers and lasted until the evening, when they returned to their families.”
Working at night by candlelight — there was no electricity — and by day in blazing temperatures was difficult. “But we tried to inject humour when we could to make it bearable. Using only bottled water, even for showers, we relied almost entirely on pre-packed rations and never needed to cook them because the ambient heat ensured that they were always boiled.
“Despite being only 28 at the time, I had to shoulder extensive responsibilities for the men and women in my company. As a specialist in trauma and emergency medicine, I had to take charge when fatalities or terrible injuries were sustained.
“One such situation, which stays with me to this day, was when a close friend and colleague was killed by gunfire only three hours after we had stood side-by-side shaving. I remember the shock I felt when, on treating his body, I only realised who it was by his distinctive tattoo.”
Captain Sharpe acknowledged that most families would not consider the military an option for their children. But the small number of serving Jews were well provided for through chaplaincy and kosher field rations.
“I’m glad to say that I have encountered no antisemitism nor malicious comments. The feeling is very much that as long as I do my job well, my colleagues aren’t bothered by any personal differences, even though many of them have often not met anyone Jewish.”
BB 2545 was formed in the wake of the B’nai B’rith Europe Young Jewish Adult Forum, held in London in November and attended by 180 people from 20 countries.