I threw my plate on the table and walked directly over to him exchanging greetings, hugs, and slaps on the back. Between receiving random machine-gun fire and the all-too-often volley of RPG fire, we managed to talk for a couple hours to catch up. Desperately wanting to hear about the other guys and how everyone was doing. Hik asked question after question, as he always did. He was sincere in every question and even more so in hearing every response. He’d heard that the bearded ones were breaking the Taliban and his old friends were doing it. Oh, how he desperately wanted to join them.
Hik had recently started his own rental and supply business and was a little out of the loop as far as teams and fighting went. While doing business at the Special Forces compound on Kandahar Airfield, he was told that the command was looking for drivers to get supplies to the guys in Panjawai, without any luck, due to high level of risk surrounding that entire area. Right there, Hik told them he’d be honored to drive the supplies there himself. So, they loaded up his Toyota Surf with the hot chow and he was on his way. Now, here we are, atop this dirt mound in southern Panjawai, exchanging stories of what each of us had been doing since the last time we talked.
Again, as time rolled on, I eventually left Sperwan Ghar and Afghanistan again, not to return but for a few months until January 2011. While on a deployment in Iraq, my Battalion Command Sergeant Major asked, “Are you willing to join the battalion on the upcoming rotation to Afghanistan?”
With excitement, I asked, “When and in what role?”
He smiled and replied, “Well, about that. The advance party will be on the ground first week of January.” Waiting for my reaction, he just paused.
“So, basically I leave here and fly to Afghanistan?”
Laughing, he replied,“No, I’ll give you a few days in the rear.”
I laughed. “Well, since you put it that way, I’m in!” A few months later, I packed my bags in Iraq, and flew home, leaving my bags and boxes at battalion. After linking up with my new commander, who luckily was an old teammate and a great friend, I got briefed on the plan and then took a few days to myself. I stayed out of the loop for these few days, minus one email from Dale, my commander:
“Things are going great on the ground, tons of work to keep us busy, a ton to update you on in regards to direction, can’t wait to fill you in! PS – I have a surprise for you when you get here. It will blow your mind!” – Dale
After anxiously awaiting my flight and traveling for a couple days, I finally arrived back in Kandahar. Like an old welcomed friend long forgotten, the smell of jet exhaust, JP8, and burning wood greeted me at the ramp. The guys met me at the ramp. I packed up and rolled to the compound. It was good to be back and with my old friend Dale. We talked for hours in the office, night turning into morning, morning into day.
I’d been trying to avoid asking, but finally gave in to my desire to know. “So what’s this surprise you have for me?”
Dale simply laughed, shot me his famous grin and replied, “Funny you should ask, we’re actually late for it. Grab your kit, we’re headed out.”
After a short brief and a little bit of running around, we loaded the Toyota and rolled out. Still wired from the time change, multiple Blue Monsters, Rip It and coffee, I was having a great time taking in the plethora of changes that took over Kandahar Airfield.
After a short drive outside the wire, we arrived at our first stop. A small in stature, older Afghan man opened the gate. We drove in and parked. All the while, Dale just smiled. We walked in. After waiting a few minutes, in walked an old familiar face.
Come to find out, one of the people I’d worked with on a regular basis on what I was pretty sure would be one of, if not, my last rotation to Afghanistan, was someone that I’d worked with on my first trip. As usual Hik and I spoke for hours. We caught each other up on time passed over the last few years.
Although it had been around three years since we’d last spoken, the friendship had not faded in the slightest. I’d learn about what happened to him after we left Sperwan Ghar, and how he grew his rental company into one of the largest transportation and supply companies in all of Afghanistan.
For the next year, we worked together often and spent time still catching up on the years passed. From old war stories we shared together to showing me he still had his first SUV, now riddled with bullet holes and cracked windows, that he’d driven that night to Sperwan Ghar to deliver food.
He told me of the many times he’d been attacked while supplying the guys over the years. How his business had grown to the point that he could no longer drive supplies himself, due to managing the hundreds and hundreds of vehicles and trucks he owned. It did not take long to realize just how much Hikmat had grown and matured in so many different ways over the years.
Always a devout Muslim, Hikmat was honored to share his story of attending the Haj in Mecca and how he was now Haji Hikmatullah. Even so, he still preferred ‘Hik.’ Still humble in his ways, now a multi-millionaire in his early 20’s, Hik did not let wealth and popularity change him.
Over my last year in Afghanistan, I saw Hik graciously help the people of his country, sparing no cost to make the lives of all those around him easier. By working with the Special Forces and village elders in the roughest of areas, Hikmat helped change the tide of the war in Southern Afghanistan. Utilizing iron-clad relationship he’d forged over the years by being ever loyal and trustworthy, Hik spared no expense to build numerous mosques, schools in clinics in these troubled areas.
Working alongside his Special Forces friends, hurting as much as they did when an Eagle fell, he did everything imaginable to change the hearts and minds of everyone he spoke to and met. For Ramadan that year, through coordinations with the locals and teams on the ground, Hik benevolently donated 30 days worth of food for every family for over 20 villages, so they could celebrate the holy month of Ramadan and Eid, like all the others in his country.
Always paying it forward, never forgetting his roots.
These grand gestures are just a few bold examples of Hikmatullah’s amicable nature. If one spends any time with him, it quickly becomes evident that Hik’s heart is of the purest intent. From treating his employees and staff as equals, to packing up every single leftover from every single meal to take it to the impoverished people nearby, Hik is a man of true character. A man who views life through a set of eyes, that is sadly all too rare these days.
Hik is a man truly is grateful for all that’s come his way and shares a true appreciation for life. All of this benevolence brought to you by a man born to a small family in Afghanistan during an inhumane time. The pain of the world filled his eyes and heart those early years as a kid, yet Hikmatullah set forth on a path to change the life of his family and his country.
He eagerly awaited the opportunity to present itself and in 2001, in the most unfortunate of ways, it did. When U.S. forces put “boots on the ground” — a phrase that almost all service members are sick of hearing — Hik’s goal was to work with the American Forces. He knew that was his chance, that was his moment and with love and grace, he embraced it.
Hikmatullah truly is of the rarest of breeds when it comes to man. He cares deeply about his family, and even more so about his people and his country. He believes in his country with every ounce of his soul and wants nothing more in life than to see a prosperous Afghanistan. Hik envisions a great country that once again has a booming economy and is a popular tourist destination.
Readers may probably laugh and think, “Afghanistan? A tourist destination? Ha. Ha. Who would want to go there? And why?” To this, I simply reply, “Yes, Afghanistan is an amazing place!”
Of course, like in most of these stories, Hik times of great trials and adversity. From constant death threats to Hik and his family from Taliban fighters for supporting the “Bearded Ones” and all NATO forces, to the rollercoaster ride that is the stability of Afghanistan, Hik has faced many challenges over the years. His greatest, however, he still faces today.
After growing that small rental business into a multi-million dollar corporation in just a few years, Hik caught the attention of some U.S. government agencies. It’s been hell on him, his family, and U.S. Special Forces soldiers ever since. A witch hunt began, as they always do, and sadly, for Hikmatullah, he is right at the center of it all.
In for the fight of his life, now he’s battling for what is rightfully his — the millions, upon millions of dollars that the U.S. Government has seized, the safety and security he’s earned for spending his adult life fighting right alongside U.S. Special Forces, and most importantly to Hik — his good name.
He spent over a decade in war building and polishing his name through the worst of times. A reputation he built by always staying loyal and true to those who gave him a chance at life and never forgetting where he came from. For in the eyes of Hikmatullah, the bearded ones were sent as an answer to many prayers, and for that, he’s forever grateful for the many years he spent with these men who saw him for who he was that evening at the gun trucks: Hikmat! A diamond in the rough.