Sgt. Kyle Gonzales, a sniper with the 82nd Airborne, has a cigarette after a gun battle near the village of Babaker, Giro district, Ghazni province. The soldiers have engaged in gun battles every time they push into the hamlets north of their forward operating base. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR

Marines with Echo Company of the Second Battalion, Ninth Marines out of Camp Lejeune, guide their M-ATV, a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle in to the district government compound in Marjah, Afghanistan. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR

Bagi Kheyl, in the eastern province of Ghazni, is one of the villages where the 82nd Airborne has been operating as part of a broader effort to drive away the Taliban. Amy Walters/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Amy Walters/NPR

An Afghan girl takes part in a boxing training session around in a training room at the Kabul stadium, in Kabul in January 2011. Shah Marai/Getty Images hide caption

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Michael Currie was stationed in Afghanistan for the past year, leaving behind his wife and daughters. His most vivid memory of his service was the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. Becky Lettenberger/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Becky Lettenberger/NPR

A U.S. soldier watches members of the Afghan Public Protection Force arrive at the transition ceremony on the outskirts of the Afghan capital Kabul on March 15. The APPF replaces all private security contractors in the country. Ahmad Jamshid/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Ahmad Jamshid/AP

Afghan local police officers wait outside a classroom at a training facility in Marjah. U.S. Marines are training local security forces how to maintain calm in the region. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR