By Steven J. Zaloga

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Extra resources for American Armored Funnies: U S Special Armored Vehicles in Combat 1942-1945 (Armor at War 7052)

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Sardar asked me in English. ” Today in the truck stop I was watching an old man come in and sit 39 38 MATTHIEU AIKINS • BIRD OF CHAMAN, FLOWER OF THE KHYBER down, and a young man came and offered him tea, put sugar in it, had him check it to make sure it was the right sweetness,” Sardar explained. “He was very kind. ” It was true. Even the hippest and toughest adolescents I had met still behaved with careful respect around their elders. In Pashtun culture, to be old—to be a spin giri, or white beard—was a blessing, a reward for a lifetime of obligations fulfilled.

I resolved to press on and explained the situation to Sardar. “Fuck their NOC,” he responded. Having crossed over to the west bank of the Indus, we were now in Dera Ghazi Khan. The district marks the frontier between Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which means “Land of the Khyber Pashtuns,” though everyone refers to it as KPK. We passed women wearing burqas with tall spindles on their crowns, like Hershey’s kisses. From there, we followed the Indus north and crossed the provincial border into Dera Ismail Khan, the first district in KPK.

The heat and motion made us drowsy, but when I tried to rest my head in the back, I would wake up after a few minutes bathed in sweat and gasping for air. It was better to sit up in the middle, where we caught a bit of breeze from the windows. Ahmad rolled a spliff of hash and passed it to his older brother. Ahmad liked to smoke too but would never do so in front of Jahangir out of respect, even though they were only a few years apart in age. Jahangir was 34, though he looked older, and he had a son and a daughter; another son had died in infancy.

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