A thin line of dark mud shines in the sunlight, the only hint of water in the middle of a desert village in Afghanistan. At first it’s quiet, and in the distance two soldiers can be seen making their way into a wide, empty space between the mud huts. Gunshots begin to ring out, and the barrel of an automatic rifle rises up as the soldier carrying the camera peeks around a crude wall and shoots back.
The soldier firing is Spc. James T. Wickliffchacin, of Edmond. He yells at the two soldiers in the distance to stop, but they don’t hear him, and one of them falls to the sand after taking a bullet. Wickliffchacin fires again before running to their aid and helping drag the wounded soldier to safety.
Over the course of several months serving on the front lines of the war, Wickliffchacin shot more than 300 videos, including a daily journal, said Thomas Wickliff, Wickliffchacin’s father. He found the videos on his son’s computer, which was returned to him by the Army after his son’s death in September.
“He made a journal every day. Every day,” said Wickliff.
The videos show a wide spectrum of a soldier’s life in Afghanistan, including Wickliffchacin joking with comrades, talking candidly about long days in the desert, and talking to children in Afghan villages.
Wickliffchacin died Sept. 20 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio after being injured Aug. 12 in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan.
Wickliff said the injuries from the bombing were survivable, but his son contracted a fungal infection that spread voraciously.
Through multiple surgeries, doctors removed Wickliffchacin’s legs and part of his pelvis in an effort to stop the infection from spreading. Wickliffchacin had also contracted pneumonia, and doctors eventually said he could not handle any more surgeries.
“I had to tell my son he wasn't going to make it, that there was nothing they could do,” Wickliff told The Oklahoman in September.
As Wickliffchacin lay dying on his hospital bed, barely able to speak, he asked his father to take special care of the videos. Wickliff promised his son that he would.
When he finally received his son’s computer from the Army it was wiped clean, but that didn’t stop him. Wickliff, put his computer skills to the test, and he said he was able to locate the videos in the hard drive and restore them.
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“He felt very proud, because he would tell me ‘I will enroll in the best army in the world … Here, in this army, I will have the opportunity to make a difference.’”