In a war zone like Nangahar Province in Afghanistan, lives are more likely to be lost than saved.
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That is what makes what one U.S. soldier from northern Kentucky - Sgt. Rob Huff of Williamstown - and six of his fellow soldiers did Wednesday in a tiny village in the Laghman Valley so remarkable.
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Three Afghan children are alive today because Huff and his fellow soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division risked their own lives to pull them out of a crumbling house when raging flood waters threatened to wash them away.
"If you know Rob, you will not be surprised,'' said the 40-year-old soldier's girlfriend, Amanda Buring of Florence. "It is the kind of man he is."
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That tiny village near Jalalabad, ravaged by flash floods as was much of eastern Afghanistan this week, is a place where Huff did not have to be.
He has served his country before as an Army reservist, doing two tours of duty in Iraq with the Cincinnati-based 377th Military Police Co.
But he returned to active duty last year, joining the 101st Airborne Division when it left its base at Fort Campbell, Ky., early this year to become the primary U.S. fighting force in the eastern region of Afghanistan.
He left behind three daughters, who live in Union, Ky.; and a six-month granddaughter whom he adores. A photo of his grand-baby holding a toy soldier is the profile picture on the Grant County soldier's Facebook page.
In civilian life, he worked as a pastor to children and youth at several local churches; and was chaplain at the Florence police department.
"I've known him for about three years; and we started dating about two years ago,'' Buring said. "I know how much he cares about family and how much he adores children.
"So I'm pretty sure I know what was going through his mind when he carried that little Afghan child - not much older than his granddaughter - out of the water,'' Buring said. "He was thinking of his own children and his own grand-child. I know he was."
The Army has made no comment yet on the incident, but Buring has pieced together what happened from the e-mails and internet postings of Huff and other soldiers who were there.
Huff was on patrol near the village early Wednesday morning with his military police platoon when a frantic Afghan civilian ran toward them on the road, begging them to come help his children.
A flash flood was racing through the village; the man's three children were trapped inside a house. The house's rock walls were crumbling under the pressure from the torrent.
There were no Afghan government forces or rescue teams in the area; they were fanned out across eastern Afghanistan that day, trying to save locals from the floodwaters of the Kabul and Kunar rivers.
The U.S. soldiers had no real water rescue training, but they did what they could, wading into the heavy currents of water that was three to six feet deep.
They were unable to get to the house before an elderly woman was swept away in the flood waters, but they were able to get to the three small children and carry them to safety.
One photo that Buring received via e-mail showed her boyfriend and a fellow soldier, Cpl. Patrick O'Rorke wading through shallow water after the rescue. In Huff's arms is an infant child.
E-mails to Huff from the Enquirer since Friday have not been answered.
Buring said he is on patrol almost constantly and rarely gets access to e-mail. A short and sweet one came to her Thursday: "I love you."
The sergeant's Facebook page is flooded with friends and family sending messages of congratulation.
Huff - who is scheduled to return home in November - found some time Thursday to reply:
"I don't know about being a hero, but having a heart to help those that can't help themselves,'' Huff wrote. "I acted on the hope that someone would do the same for my family."
In: Iraq, Afghanistan, Middle East
Tags: Nangahar Province, afghanistan, 101st Airborne Division, Cincinnati-based 377th Military Police Co.,
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