Handprints Spell Hope in War-torn Afghanistan

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The war in Afghanistan has continued for more than eight years. Still, in the middle of the fighting, there are signs of hope.

An American soldier is one of the people helping children in a war-torn community.

"The motivation, or the driving force, was going to Afghanistan," war veteran Russell Bartholow said.

A few years ago, at an age double that of many recruits, 38-year-old Bartholow quit his job to join the National Guard. He said he became obsessed with Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

It wasn't long before the lieutenant found himself thousands of miles from Nebraska, outside the city of Mazar Sharif in the war-torn country.

"I had the opportunity to do a couple humanitarian assistance missions. They needed extra people, I volunteered. I fell in love," 1st Lt. Bartholow said.

He fell in love with helping the people caught in the crossfire of war, the innocent civilians.

Bartholow volunteered to stay an extra nine months, leading a reconstruction team. The team revamped schools and clinics. But to Bartholow, more needed to be done to encourage the children of Afghanistan.

"They don't really have places to play. Usually they're playing in graveyards; they're playing on the streets, ditches," Bartholow said.

But he saw potential in this old war zone filled with burned-out tanks and mines. So he convinced 12 leaders and businessmen from the city to donate a whopping $100,000 to turning this place of destruction into a park for families.

As the final concrete was poured, Bartholow invited the next generation to leave their mark.

"Now in 30 years, there won't be tanks there. There'll be their handprints and their names signed in the concrete," he said. "The park will mean that there's other things in life besides struggle and fighting and war and the sound of bullets."

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Mark Martin

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Mark Martin is a reporter and anchor at CBN News, covering various issues from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East and traveled to Bahrain to cover stories on the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkMartinCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/MarkMartinCBN.