It’s been nearly two months since the Kandahar massacre – some time and distance, but not much. Some things are clearer, some things still aren’t. We don’t know why Staff Sergeant Robert Bales did what he did. We do know the American public’s confidence in the war effort plunged post-Kandahar. We don’t know if that confidence will return, though it seems unlikely. We do know that Bales has become part of the Afghanistan War’s legacy, and in many ways, the face of the multiple deployments of the GWOT-era in general. That last point is a damn shame, because there’s another man that should serve that role. His name was Kristoffer Domeij.
Sergeant First Class Domeij was killed in October in Afghanistan on his 14th deployment at the age of 29, leaving behind a wife and two young daughters. You read that correctly. It was his 14th deployment. He was a part of the fabled 75th Ranger Regiment, and while it’s true that spec ops’ units like the Rangers deploy for shorter time periods than conventional units, that doesn’t detract from the absurdity of one man going to war that many times. Actually, the word “absurdity” doesn’t cover it. “Moral bankruptcy of an entire outsized nation” might.
Like many Americans, when I first heard about Domeij’s passing, I shook my head in disbelief, shook my fist angrily – and promptly forgot about it a few days later. Though I was familiar with the 2-75 Ranger Battalion due to personal connections and a previous story I’d written about them, I had never met Domeij myself. Further, there’s no shortage of tragic stories involving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, something my day job at IAVA exposes me a lot to – as callous as that sounds. (It exposes me a lot to the success stories that don’t get much media attention as well, but I digress.)
His friends and comrades, both still in the Rangers and those out, didn’t forget about him. They were shocked – Domeij was one of their stalwarts, they said, and if anyone was supposed to make it back, it was him. Even in a culture and community that’s grown to understand and accept dying young – especially since 9/11, as our military has continued to rely on them for a variety of dangerous mission sets – Domeij’s death shook the Rangers in a way I’d not seen before, and haven’t since. I observed this, but it didn’t linger for some reason. It should have.
Then, earlier this year, I received a letter from my uncle, David Steinle, a retired educator who lives in southern California. He’d read of Domeij’s passing and wanted to help. My Uncle David is one of those rare souls that lives his principles rather than spouts them; he’s been a rock in our family for many years, and is always a source of wisdom and thoughtfulness. “It is my hope that you could encourage information about [Domeij’s] dedication to duty, honor and sacrifice,” he wrote. “It is also my hope that you might be able to encourage financial support for his wife and children. I know I would be happy to contribute.”
I told him I’d look into it. It took some digging – like all spec ops’ communities, the Rangers are tight-lipped, stoic and don’t like to put the spotlight on any one individual or group of individuals – but I was able to get my uncle the requested information for Sergeant First Class Domeij’s memorial fund, thanks to The Pointe du Hoc Foundation and some enterprising 2-75 staff officers.
If you’re interested in donating to Sergeant First Class Domeij’s memorial fund, you can contact The Pointe du Hoc Foundation here. It’s the least any of us can do for Domeij’s young daughters, who will remember and honor their father far longer than even the most grateful of us will.