'A hundred rockets a day was a good day,' says US medic's widow

Risking their lives to help disadvantaged Afghans became almost a norm for Tom, a New York optometrist, who has been working in Afghanistan for more than 30 years.
"We raised our three daughters through what was, at times, just hell," his wife Libby Little said. "A hundred rockets a day was a good day," she was quoted as saying by CNN.

Family members lived underground to avoid bombings, she said. But violence prevailed on Thursday when Tom was shot dead by the Taliban.Tom was among 10 people killed by Taliban gunmen in Badakhshan, a remote northeastern region of the country. He was the team leader of the medical aid group.

The mostly foreign members of a medical team were robbed and shot one-by-one on a remote road.

"He died right where he loved to be -- and that was doing eye care in remote areas," Little said from her home in New York. "Our daughters are missing him terribly. But I think their feeling is, too, that this is a real passion that he had."
It was the remote areas of Afghanistan, Little said, where the need for her husband's services was often greatest.

Little said her husband had recently become involved in a programme to eradicate preventable blindness by 2020.

"There's a lot of preventable blindness in Afghanistan -- blinding eye diseases that can be solved with just very small work," she said.Tom was heavily involved with training in optometry overseas, "enabling Afghans to start picking up the work of eye care, because it wasn't there," his widow said.

His passion for helping Afghans ran deep, she said."He would come back to the States and get throw-away optical equipment, then refurbished it, then would send it over to set up a little optical manufacturing factory, so they could make their own eyeglasses there."

When the couple married, they didn't foresee devoting much of their lives in Afghanistan.Little said warfare in Afghanistan didn't deter her or her husband.

"If you're in medicine, I think you feel you can't leave," she said. "If you're propping up a hospital that's the only hospital, then you can't leave when it gets bad."
Despite the circumstances, Little kept her composure while reminiscing about her husband.

"We had 40 wonderful years together -- of serving together, all those years, doing what we thought we should do. And that's enough for a life."

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