By Jon Micheal Connor, Army Public AffairsOctober 19, 2018
FOB LIGHTNING, Afghanistan -- Sitting in his deployed room with the glow of a decent-sized widescreen TV illuminating his face, this U.S. Soldier is both intrigued and overjoyed at what he is seeing -- photos and video of his paternal grandparents and their children living in Afghanistan nearly 50 year ago.
One of their children is his father, Victor, one of five boys. Victor is the father of Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Rutherford. His dad attended the American International School of Kabul and graduated in a class of 12 in 1973. He eventually returned to America joining the U.S. Air Force for a four-year stint in early 1974 to become a C-130 aircraft mechanic.
Looking through his dad's high school yearbook over the years, Rutherford said he was amazed at the photos.
"It looked like they could've been in southern California," he said, referencing the mountains and arid conditions. "He enjoyed the things he learned," Rutherford said of his dad's Afghan education.
But before returning back stateside, his dad took a summer bus trip through Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and other stops in the Middle East, eventually making his way back to the family's permanent hometown of Santa Cruz, California.
Six months later, the Rutherford family reluctantly left Afghanistan based on political turmoil. "They were asked to leave Afghanistan in uncertain terms," said Rutherford, a cavalry scout with nearly 19 years of service.
Rutherford is assigned to one of the Army's newest premier units called the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade. This unit is designed to train, advise, and assist other nation's militaries in need of specialized expertise based on a multitude of specialized experience that each member brings. In Afghanistan, 1st SFAB works with the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (Army and Police) from the battalion to Corps level. He is the noncommissioned officer in charge of Team 1321, Brave Troop, 3rd Squadron.
Prior to this deployment, Rutherford served two tours in Iraq for a total of 27 months.
Rutherford said coming to Afghanistan felt like a homecoming of sorts.
"I love this country the way my father loved this country and the way my grandfather loved this country," he said.
But what are his relatives doing in Afghanistan? And where did Rutherford obtain all these digitized photos and 8 mm film to view in his cramped room in a wooden building situated in this FOB nestled next to Paktiya Province's capital, Gardez, at 7,500 feet in the Hindu Kush mountains?
As it turns out, Rutherford's grandparents, Methodists, did Christian missionary work starting in the middle 1950s. His grandfather, Vincent, served in the Marines near the end of the Korean War, got out and eventually became an ordained minister.
During future decades, the grandparents took their sons with them to Pakistan several times, and Bangladesh. And for the period of 1969 to 1974, to Afghanistan.
The elder Rutherfords did not do missionary work in Afghanistan but instead conducted medical administrative assistance under an international program to improve the lives of Afghans. Specifically, his grandparents aided those coming to a hospital in Kabul and providing supplies to outlying clinics. Fast forward to today, and their grandson is also helping Afghans.
The photos and film were produced by his grandparents. But like with so many other families, memories of yesteryear are just boxed up and stored away. It wasn't until the death of his grandpa did Rutherford really learn and grasp the depth of this family treasure.
In 2014, Rutherford's grandfather was struck by a car while in a crosswalk in Boulder Creek, California. The manner of death seems at odds for a man who embarked on a quite adventurous lifestyle in third-world nations for decades.
Asked what it cost to have all the photos and film footage digitally archived, Rutherford turns away from the screen and said it cost nothing. He explained that a company in Los Cruces, California, does this for "free" but it turns out there is a cost.
Those who agree must give the original photographs and film to the company for archiving. So that's how the Rutherfords were able to bring to life memories long put aside back to life in the modern digital age to be re-experienced for interested family members.
It's hard to imagine all that life is captured on a thumb drive. But as is evident, the grandparents become young again, as does Rutherford's dad and uncles.
Looking at footage shot when the family moved in Pakistan, one can watch and listen to Rutherford's grandma, Fern, describe what is going on using a handheld microphone just like images from a network reporter telling a story overseas back in the 1960s.
Rutherford believes his grandpa would've done medical-related work in the Gardez area.
"He would've traveled to deliver medical supplies" to places like Gardez. He said "it's probable" that his grandpa actually came to Gardez.
The way Rutherford sees it, he's carrying on a family tradition of helping people in need.
"It makes me think about being the third generation of helping the same people in a different way," Rutherford said. "I think the work is equally challenging. So it gives me pride in taking part in challenging work."
The end state is the same -- providing security for the Afghan people -- so they can make a better life for themselves.