By ROD NORDLAND
KABUL, Afghanistan — The story of Specialist Dennis Weichel could easily serve as a counternarrative to the gruesome account of the American soldier charged with 17 counts of murder in Kandahar on March 11.
Specialist Weichel, who was 29, was killed while rescuing an Afghan child, but more than a week after that event the military here has yet to officially confirm what happened. Indeed, the initial details of the episode in northeastern Laghman Province came not from military officials but from Afghan civilians and then fellow soldiers and friends in the United States.
After months of what has seemed like a relentless series of episodes of soldiers behaving badly, from Koran burnings to massacres, the military was almost reluctant to trumpet its good deeds, not only in the Weichel case, but in another recent case where soldiers saved the life of a Taliban insurgent’s son.
'Looked at my nephew as a human being'
On March 22, Specialist Weichel, an Army National Guardsman from Rhode Island, was riding in a convoy that was just leaving a firing range when he jumped from his vehicle to help clear a group of children out of the way. The children were trying to collect the brass shell casings at the range to sell for scrap metal. Afghan witnesses said that when a 10-year-old Afghan boy darted under a vehicle, Specialist Weichel climbed under and pushed him to safety. Then the huge vehicle ran over Specialist Weichel, killing him.
The boy, Zaiullah, the son of an Afghan policeman, confirmed the episode in an interview.