Men in My Town

Sending your little girl away soon to her first year at college? 6 things you (and she) need to know about campus rape.

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on August 12, 2019

Sending your little girl away soon to her first year at college? 6 things you (and she) need to know about campus rape.

1. You’re at greater risk of being raped or sexually assaulted during your first semester freshman year than any other time during your college career. You can be raped at any age, at any time, at any school, but the risk is highest during your first few months as a freshman.

2. While it’s never, ever the victim’s fault, the more you drink, the more you’re at risk. Excessive alcohol and drug use, while never an excuse, are often cited by both the victim and criminal rapist as contributing to the crime.

3. Most victims are assaulted by someone they know or someone known to their friends. The risk of being raped or sexually assaulted by a total stranger while away at school is very, very low.

4. There’s a higher probability of being raped in off-campus housing than being raped on campus. The risk you face isn’t being raped by a stranger on your walk back to your dorm after a night at the library but from someone you know, or your friends know, while drinking off-campus during your freshman year.

So while anyone, any age might be sexually assaulted on campus by a stranger, the facts show you’re most at risk from someone you know, in off-campus housing, during your freshman year, after you and / or the criminal rapist have been drinking to excess.

5. Colleges and Universities have a self-interest in protecting their reputation and balance sheet. Your self-interest should be in protecting you. If you’re raped or sexually assaulted reach out for help. There’s no shame in what happened to you. Rape and sexual assault are never the victim’s fault. Never. Hear me? Never…so dial 911 and report your assault to the local police. Call the real cops. Let them deal with Campus Security.

If you can’t disclose to the cops, I understand, just know you’re not alone and there are people who will help you. Please call RAINN, the Rape Abuse Incest National Network at (800) 656 HOPE for 24 / 7 anonymous, confidential, free help.

Oh, yeah, one last thought. My title, ‘Sending your little girl away soon to her first semester at college? 6 things you (and she) need to know about campus rape,’ is misleading.

Number 6. Boys get raped too.

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Keith Smith, the author of Men in My Town, is a Survivor of a Stranger Abduction Rape and a Speaker on the topic of Child Sex Abuse, Sex Assault and Rape Prevention.

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Keith Smith testifies to Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee in support of Statute of Limitation reform in cases of sex crimes committed against children

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on June 27, 2019

 

New Jersey passes Statute of Limitations reform in cases of sex crimes committed against children

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on May 13, 2019

208BC2A1-3433-4D00-8789-C274C41C1418Committee Room 4, New Jersey State House. Trenton, New Jersey. May 13, 2019. 

9 years ago, I walked into this room to testify before the State Senate Judiciary Committee in support of legislation being introduced to revise the Statute of Limitations relating to sex crimes committed against children. 

This afternoon I walked into this room surrounded by legislators, legislative staff, social workers, advocates, a constitutional law scholar, a catholic priest, survivors of childhood sex abuse, their parents, spouses, brothers, sisters, children, friends, those they love, and those who love them. Hero’s all. 

We came together to witness and celebrate New Jersey passing into law the nation’s most comprehensive Statute of Limitations reform legislation protecting the rights of children and adult survivors of sexual assault and rape. 

At the age of 14, I was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger. I’m a survivor of a stranger-danger abduction and male rape. 

I’m not writing to tell my story, but to spread understanding of why this legislation is so important, to share with you what I’ve learned from my own experience, and what I’ve learned in conversations I’ve had with over 100 adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. 

Children who are victims of sexual abuse often resort to inappropriate behaviors to cope as they suffer through physical, emotional, behavioral and social problems directly related to their abuse. 

Some turn to drugs and alcohol, drop out of school, run away from home, suffer from eating disorders, sleeping disorders, personality disorders, stress, anxiety, depression, disassociation, post-traumatic stress syndrome and life threatening sexually transmitted disease.

Some children have difficulty forming trusting relationships, resort to physical violence, sexual promiscuity and inappropriate and sometimes criminal sexually reactive behavior. 

Some resort to cutting, self-mutilation and in the most extreme cases they’ve murdered their abuser while others contemplate, attempt or commit suicide.

Directly attributable to their sexual abuse, victims often suffer these enduring problems throughout their adolescence and into adulthood, many suffering through decades of silence, never disclosing their abuse.

But why not? Why don’t they disclose?

Sexually abused children and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse remain silent out of misplaced guilt, fear, shame, embarrassment, feelings of being complicit in their abuse, and under threat of violence from their perpetrators, threats of violence directed at the child, their family, their friends, event their pets.  

In time, often in a number of years that far surpass the current statute of limitations, some victims of childhood sexual abuse get the strength to come forward, the strength to speak out, the strength to face the demons that haunt them and the perpetrator of their abuse.

Unfortunately, the amount of time that lapses between the sex crime committed against the child and the date the adult survivor comes forward seeking justice, often exceeds the current statute of limitations and eliminates the possibility of legal civil recourse. 

While the Roman Catholic Church lobbied extensively for over a decade to defeat this legislation, I want to be clear, this law is not anti-Catholic. 

While this law will hold priests accountable for the crimes they’ve committed against children, and the church accountable for the cover-up of those crimes, this legislation holds accountable every criminal who has, or will abuse kids regardless of who they are or where they work; parents, step-parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, sisters, friends of the family, neighbors, school teachers, bus drivers, coaches, doctors, lawyers, politicians, business owners, truck drivers, carpenters, plumbers, construction workers, firemen, cops, bankers, brokers, the guy down the street, the stranger, and yes catholic priests, bishops and cardinals too. This law isn’t anti-Catholic. It’s pro-child. 

The life altering physical, emotional, behavioral and social side effects of sexual abuse last a lifetime and now, today, children and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in New Jersey have until they’re 55 years-old to seek justice for the abuse they suffered. 

To all the people who played a role in getting this legislation written, debated, out of committee, to the floor for a vote, passed and signed into law, thank you. 

To the criminals who’ve ever sexually abused a child in New Jersey, your day of reckoning has come.

Is It Really Possible For People To Heal From Sexual Abuse?

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on June 20, 2018

In a reply to a quote I made during an interview, “the real healing was achieved when I started to sincerely believe I’m not responsible for what happened to me,” a woman, Jennifer, asked, “is it really possible for people to heal from sexual abuse?”

If you believe what I’ve written may be helpful to someone you know who is suffering in silence or struggling with their journey through healing, please share what’s here. Thank you.

Jennifer, my name is Keith Smith. I’m a stranger abduction male rape survivor.

I began to make the transition from victim to survivor when I was able to stop blaming myself, when I started to sincerely believe that I wasn’t responsible for what happened to me.

When I stopped blaming myself, the fear, the embarrassment, the shame, the guilt diminished. It’s not gone 100%, but it’s less painful, less destructive.

Unrelated to my rape, I’ve been operated on three times to remove cancer. Am I healed? I believe I am even though I know the cancer may come back and the very visible scars on my body and face will remain forever.

Like the emotional and psychological scars that remain after being raped at the age of 14 by a total stranger, I’ll live with them for the rest of my life.

I can deal with the emotional, psychological and physical scars. My rape, like my cancer, won’t kill me. I won’t let it. Neither was my fault. I’m not responsible for what happened to me. I’m in control. I’m healing – not healed.

For me, healing from the rape doesn’t mean I have to forget the horror I experienced or forgive my rapist.

Like my surgical scars, I expect the emotional and psychological scars related to my abduction, beating and rape will most likely last forever.

For me, healing means I no longer let those scars, the embarassment, the fear, the guilt, and shame define, limit, control or harm me.

When I started to sincerely believe I wasn’t responsible for what happened to me, I began my transition from victim to survivor.

The emotional, psychological and physical scars remain. The memories exist. Neither go away permanently… but I’m in control. I can cope with triggers and flashbacks now…now that I sincerely believe what happened to me was not my fault.

Being abducted, beaten and raped no longer haunts me, taunts me, defines me, limits me, controls me.

I’m healing. Not healed.

May you soon be able to get to the point where you sincerely believe what happened to you wasn’t your fault so you too can start to heal – and begin the transition from victim to survivor.

Peace, Jennifer.

Keith

Why Didn’t They Disclose?

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on November 13, 2017

With the media reporting stories of sexual abuse victims coming forward with claims of previous abuse committed as long as 40 years ago, the question is being raised by some, “Why didn’t they disclose when it happened and why are they disclosing now?”

Let me share with you what I’ve learned over the years in speaking publicly about my own experience as a survivor of a stranger abduction rape.

Sexually abused children and adult survivors of sexual abuse often remain silent out of misplaced guilt, fear, shame, embarrassment and under threat of violence from their perpetrators, threats of violence directed at the child, their friends, their family and even their pets.

In time, some victims of childhood sexual abuse get the strength to come forward, the strength to speak out, the strength to face the demons that haunt them and the perpetrator of their abuse, while many remain silent, living with the debilitating, destructive side effects forever, never disclosing their abuse to anyone.

The personal and societal side effects of childhood sexual abuse are daunting. Children who are victims of sexual abuse often resort to inappropriate behaviors to cope as they suffer through physical, emotional, behavioral and social problems directly related to their abuse. Some turn to drugs and alcohol, drop out of school, run away from home, suffer from eating disorders, sleeping disorders, personality disorders, stress, anxiety, depression, disassociation, post-traumatic stress syndrome and life threatening sexually transmitted disease.

Some children have difficulty forming trusting relationships, resort to physical violence, sexual promiscuity and inappropriate and sometimes criminal sexually reactive behavior. Some resort to cutting, self-mutilation and in the most extreme cases they’ve murdered their abuser while others contemplate, attempt or commit suicide.

Directly attributable to their sexual abuse, victims often suffer these enduring problems throughout their adolescence and into adulthood, many suffering through decades of silence, never disclosing their abuse.

Disclosing a sexual assault at any time, 20, 30, even 40 years after the fact, doesn’t make the abuse any less real, any less traumatic, any less violating, any less horrific, any less criminal.

We need to credit victims for having the strength and courage to come forward and disclose the abuse they suffered no matter how recent or long ago in the past.

As more victims come forward with their public disclosure of past abuse we need to understand why many victims choose to suffer in silence.

I hope in some small way my explanation helps all of us recognize the strength and courage it takes for victims to finally go public and begin their transition from sexual abuse victim to survivor.

A Transformational Moment in Understanding Sexual Harassment, Abuse and Assault

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on November 3, 2017

I believe we’re at a crossroads, a transformational moment in our understanding of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, perpetrators, victims and society’s previous unwillingness to confront publicly what has been hidden in the shadows for far too long.

Recent events involving Hollywood executives Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Brett Ratner, Bill Cosby, Andy Dick, Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman; News & Media executives Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Mark Halperin and Michael Oreskes; NYPD detectives Edward Martins and Richard Hall, Wall Street bond trader Howie Rubin, celebrity chef John Besh, Uber founder Travis Kalanick, Bikram Yoga creator Bikram Choudhury and former U S Congressman Anthony Weiner show us all that abusers aren’t the stereotypical unknown stranger in the park, rather just the opposite. Abusers are often known to their victim, and may be well known, successful, rich and powerful.

In public, in office buildings, on the set of Hollywood blockbuster films, in broadcast news studios, in the back of a police van, in Howie Rubin’s $8 million dollar NYC apartment, in your town, on your block, on your street, maybe even in your own home, sexual harassment, abuse, assault and rape occurs.

And now victims are speaking out, criminals are being held accountable and the public seems more willing to believe accusers, more willing to confront and expose abusers, more willing to shed the stigma and confront the reality.

As the powerful, rich and famous are being outed and those around them seem to no longer look the other way, I hope victims of harassment, abuse, assault and rape, victims young and old, rich and not-so-rich, famous and the lesser known kid next door get the strength they need to speak out, seek help, bring to light the abuse they’ve suffered and expose the abuser responsible.

So thank you Taylor Swift, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette for standing up and speaking out.

Because of your strength, somewhere today a young boy or girl may follow your example and find the courage to tell a parent, a teacher, a friend, or walk into a police station and begin their transition from victim to survivor.
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If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual abuse, sexual assault or rape, help is available, anonymous and confidential, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week from RAINN.

Call RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network at (800) 656 4673 or visit RAINN on the web at http://www.rainn.org

RAINN Survivor Series Video – Keith Smith, Stranger Abduction Rape Survivor

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on March 29, 2016

Random Encounters on a NYC Subway

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on February 13, 2016

It’s around 8 in the morning, Wednesday, February 10. I’m on the 1 Train heading to midtown from South Ferry, standing with my back to the door to the next subway car. We’re somewhere between 23rd Street and Penn Station. The train’s hosting a medium-sized crowd of commuters.

Every seat’s taken. 40 maybe 50 people standing, mostly adult men and women, a few high school and college aged kids, regular morning crowd, people trying to get to work, get to class, night shifters trying to get home.

We pull into Penn Station in the underbelly of Madison Square Garden, the crossroad for almost every NYC subway line, Metro North, New Jersey Transit, the Long Island Railroad and Amtrak. The train gets more crowded as a few dozen commuters climb aboard.

From the middle of the subway car, near the now closed center door, I hear a guy loudly, very loudly mumbling, grunting, saying nonsensical shit. He’s causing a scene.

People on the train size him up as “one of the homeless.” That’s not fair. Not all homeless behave this way. The guy very well might have a home. Maybe, maybe not.

Homeless, I’m not sure. What I was sure of was he’s scaring people. Innocent people. People trying to get to work. Trying to get to school. Trying to get home. People, who but for random chance, ended up in this train, at this moment, with this guy.

He’s standing in front of a young woman sitting in the first seat next to the railing, next to the center door of the train. My guess is she’s mid 20s. If you ride the subway you know exactly where she is. Sitting. Scared. On a subway now too crowded for her to move, trapped in her seat just inches from what appears to be a very unstable guy.

He’s yelling and I’m not making this shit up, “Die, Die.” Not at her, not at anyone really, just mumbling and yelling.

I can’t stand and watch. I can’t. I begin slowly moving through the dozen or so people standing between me and the center of train, softly speaking just above a whisper saying, “excuse me, please,” as I move toward the guy.

I position myself next to him, say, “excuse me, please,” and move between him and the woman trapped in her seat.

She looks up for what I think is the first time since he got on the train a minute or so ago. There are tears in her eyes and on her cheeks. There are two women sitting to her right. Strangers most likely. Just sitting next to each other out of the same random chance that placed them on this train, at this time, with a couple hundred commuters and one loud, disheveled, maybe dangerous, scary guy. The woman closest to her looks over to me and silently mouths, “thank you.”

The train pulls into 42nd Street, Times Square. The mumbling, screaming-at-no-one-in-particular, very scary guy gets off the train and disappears in the crowd of hundreds on the platform.

A few minutes later I get off at 50th and Broadway and walk to my office in Rockefeller Center

There’s a saying in New York, “See Something, Say Something.”

When it comes to protecting the innocent, for me it’s, “See Something, Do Something.”

It’s not about bravado.
It’s not about machismo.
It’s about protecting the innocent from random acts of violence.

It’s the “Men in My Town” in me.

Keith Smith, Stranger Abduction Sexual Assault Survivor Shares “5 Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe”

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on August 17, 2014

For more than 15 years, I served as a member of the board of directors of one of New Jersey’s most respected child advocacy agencies providing crisis intervention counseling services to child  victims of sexual abuse, 6 of those 15 years as President of the Board. As I write this article, I’m writing not as a board member, social worker, psychologist or academic. I write this article as an adult male survivor of childhood sexual violence.

Men in My Town by Keith Smith. Based on Actual Events.

In 1974, at the age of 14, I was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger, a  recidivist, pedophile predator hunting for boys in my childhood hometown of Lincoln, Rhode Island. Although my attacker was arrested and indicted, he never went to trial. He never went to trial because he was brutally beaten to death in the streets of Providence before his court date. Thirty-nine years after his murder, no one has ever been charged with the crime. Men in My Town is my story.

I’m writing not to tell my story, but to share my personal experience and what I’ve learned over the years, to help people understand the personal and societal effects of childhood sexual abuse and to share with you, 5 Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe.

Children who are victims of sexual abuse often resort to inappropriate behaviors to cope as they suffer through physical, emotional, behavioral and social problems directly related to their abuse. Some turn to drugs and alcohol, drop out of school, run away from home, suffer from eating disorders, sleeping disorders, personality disorders, stress, anxiety, depression, disassociation, post-traumatic stress syndrome and life threatening sexually transmitted disease.

Some children have difficulty forming trusting relationships, resort to physical violence, sexual promiscuity and inappropriate and sometimes criminal sexually reactive behavior. Some resort to cutting, self-mutilation and in the most extreme cases they’ve murdered their abuser while others contemplate, attempt or commit suicide.

Directly attributable to their sexual abuse, victims often suffer these enduring problems throughout their adolescence and into adulthood, many suffering through decades of silence, never disclosing their abuse.

But why not? Why don’t they disclose?

Sexually abused children and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse remain silent out of misplaced guilt, fear, shame, embarrassment and under threat of violence from their perpetrators, threats of violence directed at the child or their family.  In time, some victims of childhood sexual abuse get the strength to come forward, the strength to speak out, the strength to face the demons that haunt them and the perpetrator of their abuse, while many remain silent, living with the debilitating, destructive side effects forever, never disclosing their abuse to anyone.

It saddens me to say that I believe sex crimes committed against children will never stop. The life altering physical, emotional, behavioral and social side effects of sexual abuse, suffered by children into adulthood, last a lifetime. With the personal and societal cost of childhood sexual abuse so high, it’s necessary for parents, grandparents and anyone with responsibility for the health and safety of a child to be aware of 5 Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe.

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Five Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe

Step 1.       Know the Facts

  • Approximately 30% of children who are sexually abused are abused by blood-relative family members; parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.
  • An incremental 60% of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone known to them, non-family members including neighbors, teachers, coaches, clergy, instructors, camp counselors, baby-sitters, step-parents, older kids in the neighborhood and friends of the family.
  • Fewer than 10% of children who are sexually abused are abused by strangers.
  • Less than 1% of children who are sexually abused are abducted and assaulted by strangers. Although very real, and it happened to me, the “Stranger Danger” risk of a child being abducted and sexually assaulted by a stranger is very low.
  • While “Stranger Danger” abductions and sexual assault are rare, the risk is very high. Odds are 50-50 if a child is abducted and sexually assaulted by a stranger, and the abduction lasts over 3 hours, the child will be murdered.
  • While we teach our kids to be aware of strangers, the facts show that over 90% of sexual assaults perpetrated against children are committed by someone known to the child.  Since that’s the case, the risk you face may not be from the stranger at the park, but from the very person you allow to take your child to the park.

Step 2.       Know the Signs

There are physical, emotional and behavioral signs that could indicate sexual abuse.

  • Physical signs include bruises, swelling, pain, rashes, cuts, bed wetting, self-mutilation, excessive weight gain or excessive weight loss.
  • Emotional signs manifest themselves when a normally happy, healthy, social child suddenly becomes withdrawn, sullen, sad or depressed. Or when a child experiences recurring nightmares, is unable or unwilling to sleep or experiences and discusses thoughts of suicide.
  • Behavioral signs can be seen when a child becomes excessively combative or exceptionally defiant. Some children no longer want to do things they liked to do or no longer want to be with people they liked to spend time with in the past. Behavioral signs can also appear in the form of age inappropriate sexual behavior, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide attempts.
  • Be aware that sometimes there are no signs at all.
  • While the presence of some of these physical, emotional or behavioral signs may be associated with, or dismissed as “adolescence,” we should be aware they are well known, documented warning signs of sexual abuse.

Step 3.       Know What to Do

  • Since over 90% of sex crimes committed against children are committed by either family members or someone known to the child, we should minimize the amount of alone time any child spends in one-on-one situations with an adult.
  • Demand that adults with access to children involved in school, school bus transportation, extracurricular activities, sport programs, summer camps, music, dance, gymnastics, skating or other one-on-one teaching lessons are subject to mandatory background checks.
  • Don’t leave children in the care of adults with known alcohol or drug problems.  Nothing more needs to be said.
  • Understand why a child might not tell. Children remain silent because of manipulation and misplaced guilt, shame, fear and to protect others.  If you suspect abuse and your child won’t tell, don’t assume abuse isn’t happening.  If you suspect abuse, trust your instinct, understand why a child might not tell and get help.
  • Use positive stories in the news as a catalyst for discussion. When you hear about the next Amber Alert, discuss it with your child. Let kids know that there is a system in place that alerts adults and law enforcement that a child needs help. The next time the news reports a missing child being reunited with their family, talk about it. Fear is the tool of the perpetrator.  As scared as a child may be during an assault, or an abduction, if they know that people are looking for them, if they know people are going to help them, the child may find some peace and hope in those thoughts.  Positive stories in the news, discussed with children before they need to rely on them, may just be the hope they need to get through their own experience.
  • Tell your child now, that you will believe them, they can trust you and you will help them.One way perpetrators manipulate their child victim is by telling the child no one will believe them. If a child knows before they’re abused, that you will believe them, that they can trust you and that you will help them, you’ve taken away the perpetrators leverage over the innocent child.

Step 4.       Know Where to Go

  • If you suspect child sexual abuse, anonymous and confidential help is available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Consider reaching out to ChildHelp at 1-800-4-A-Child. You can visit their website at www.childhelp.org or call RAINN, the Rape Abuse Incest National Network at 1-800-656-HOPE. RAINN’s website is  www.rainn.org

Step 5.       Know What to Say

  • I pray that you’ll never, ever need to know what to say, but should a child ever disclose to you that they’ve been sexually abused, the child needs to hear you say, I believe you. You can trust me. I will help you.

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Keith Smith, the author of Men in My Town, is a Survivor of a Stranger Abduction Sexual Assault and a Keynote Speaker on the topic of Childhood Sexual Abuse.

The story of Keith’s assault and his transition from sexual assault victim to survivor has been featured in newspapers and magazines and his program, “5 Steps You Can Take to Keep Kids Safe” has been discussed on radio and television.

Keith has lobbied government officials to prevent cutbacks to sex abuse prevention and counseling programs and he’s testified before the New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee seeking to eliminate the statute of limitation in civil actions relating to sex crimes committed against children.

Keith’s story has been covered by the New York Times. He participated in Oprah Winfrey’s award-winning show, 200 Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, was featured on Perspective : New Jersey with ABC Investigative Reporter Nora Muchanic and appeared on Anderson Cooper’s Special, State of Shame: The Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal.

More information is available at www.MenInMyTown.wordpress.com

Information about his novel, Men in My Town can be found at www.tinyurl.com/MenInMyTown

Keith’s Men in My Town LinkedIn Profile can be viewed at www.LinkedIn.com/in/MenInMyTown

Email Keith Smith at MenInMyTown@aol.com

American Troops in Afghanistan Reading Men in My Town

Posted in Men in My Town by Keith Smith on January 20, 2012
United States Marine, NATO Forces, Afghanistan. Semper Fi, Marine !

U. S. Marine Corps., NATO Forces, ISAF, Afghanistan. Semper Fi, Marine !

Lieutenant Colonel Denis Riel, Lincoln, RI - Kabul, Afghanistan.

Lieutenant Colonel Denis Riel. Lincoln, R.I., USA. Kabul, Afghanistan. One of the Men in My Town.