Army Pfc. Jorge D. Morante helps build the facilities at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan. Morante, a carpentry and masonry specialist, is one of a few thousand soldiers stationed at the air base in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo by Derrick Goode
Bone-chilling cold, lung-choking dust storms, and the constant threat of enemy land mines and sniper fire are just a few of the challenges the son of a Glen Cove couple is facing as he stands on the front line of the war on terror in Afghanistan.
Army Pfc. Jorge D. Morante, son of Carlos E. and Juana Morante of Madison Ave., Glen Cove, is serving his country in Afghanistan as a carpentry and masonry specialist.
Morante's job is a vital one, as the war against the remaining Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists is far from over.
"I'm assigned to an engineer company. We've been building the facilities and improving living conditions for soldiers away from home by providing them with a safe more comfortable living environment," said the 1995 graduate of Glen Cove High School.
Morante is one of a few thousand soldiers who operate out of the Kandahar Airport-a bomb-wracked complex that serves as their temporary base of operations. Located in the southeastern region of Afghanistan, the area was once a hotbed of Taliban activity and the sniper fire and accompanying flares that light up the night sky are evidence that the war is not yet over.
The living conditions on base are spartan. The crowded tents where soldiers sleep practically shoulder to shoulder are unheated and Morante said that with temperatures dipping below zero soldiers are constantly fending off cold weather injuries. Running water is a distant memory of living in the states, as are hot meals.
In spite of these conditions, Morante said he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I'm proud to be able to say that I served my country in its time of need. I feel good knowing that I'm a part of history."
One way the conditions in the country have affected Morante is in his ability to accomplish his mission.
"The dust storms can be pretty bad, and it slows us down sometimes. We put in long hours every day, and there isn't a lot to look forward to when we're done, even with all the improvements we're making. Whatever it takes, though, we'll get the job done," he said.
While Morante said the 14 to 16 hour workdays, uncertainty of how long he will be in Afghanistan and the perils of the job occasionally wear him down, the real difficulty of the deployment has been being away from his family.
"I definitely miss my family and my friends-especially my mom's cooking. It's the simple things you miss the most. I think I will appreciate things more when I get back," he said.
For Morante, the creature comforts of home may remain a distant memory, but the knowledge of the part he plays in Operation Enduring Freedom will last a lifetime.