A U.S. Army Chinook helicopter carrying sling-loaded cargo flies to a forward base in Afghanistan. Chris Hondros/Getty Images hide caption

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Lt. James Wende (right) with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, keeps a watchful eye on his Marines while on patrol in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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Lt. James Wende, pictured on patrol in Helmand province, says he feels like a senior looking at the freshman class as he concludes his deployment in Afghanistan and hands over the territory to newly arrived Marines. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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Soldiers under fire dash from their Stryker vehicles toward an irrigation canal. It offers some cover but also makes movement across the fields difficult. Graham Smith/NPR hide caption

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Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson approaches Patrol Base Lakhari in southern Helmand province. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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A Marine with with Fox Company of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment carries a metal detector at the front of his patrol in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan near Garmsir. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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Marines from an explosive ordnance disposal team detonate a homemade explosive device, which was discovered near a compound outside of their base. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti of Massachusetts (shown here in the mountains of Afghanistan) will be awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions on June 21, 2006, in which he gave his life trying to help another soldier. Courtesy of 10th Mountain Division hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of 10th Mountain Division

U.S. Special Forces member rides a ATV with the children of Kuhak. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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First Sgt. Derrick Mays stands beneath the company colors outside of a tent at Camp Leatherneck in June. An 18-year Marine Corps veteran, Mays says his wife, Marcia, has a way of tolerating the long deployments. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

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