Grand Strand volunteer returns from Afghanistan

Dr. Ronald Bradley, a US Marine Corps veteran and native of Myrtle Beach, recently returned from his second trip to Afghanistan to serve as a school counselor for children and teachers.

WPDE NewsChannel 15 sat down with Dr. Bradley in October, the week before his trip. On Friday, a few weeks after his return, we met up again, and Dr. Bradley told us what he'd been doing more than 7,000 miles away.

"I counseled with about 30 students, mostly girls, because obviously females have a very challenging time in Afghanistan," Dr. Bradley said.

Dr. Bradley says he saw a smaller US military presence than his last visit in 2011. With troops set to be gone by next year, some of those Dr. Bradley counseled are concerned about their future. "They have concerns about their education. Will they be able to go to school, will girls be able to attend school, once the Americans leave?"

Others were focused less on the American troops, and more on April's presidential election.

No matter what happens, a major concern is still the treatment of women in Afghanistan. Dr. Bradley says many of the girls he spoke with, some of whom ranked at the top of their class, will be forced into work or arranged marriages after high school.

Dr. Bradley was able to make one special trip during his visit to the Middle East, to meet with a 10th grade girl named Shahida Mujadeddi. Bradley describes her as the Malala of Afghanistan. Mujadeddi is a student at a school where 150 girls were poisoned in May. In e-mails to Bradley, she says terrorists cannot stop her education. She writes, "I can't stop going to school if they kill me it is the goal of my life."

Mujadeddi is one of the lucky few looking forward to an education. For so many others, Dr. Bradley could only offer advice and a willingness to listen.

"I think the difference I made was just caring. It sounds, maybe, simple but just the presence. There's power in ones presence and just being there to care for them, someone who came all that way," Bradley said.