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Saturday, September 04, 2004

Noor

From Bitchalicious

I'd like to preface this entry by saying that I normally try not to use my blog as a place to express my political views. I try to keep my personal views about the situation in the Middle East, especially my own deployment, to myself. I do talk about it sometimes, but I try to keep it light, and fun, and entertaining here, rather than too serious. Because usually, serious is just not me.

But. Just this once, I'd like to offer you a few stories of truth, and horror, and inspiration about all of the good things that soldiers are doing over here for the Iraqi people. Regardless of what you see on the news, I'm here, and I see what really goes on--before there is any sort of journalistic spin put on it to "make it a good story".

I've been here for 8 months, and in the short time I've been here, I've seen huge changes being made. Gigantic steps in the right direction. When I first got here, the highways were ripped to shreds. There was trash everywhere. Homeless people lined the streets, city power and a functioning sewage system did not exist. Instead of attending school, children sold cigarettes and pornographic material in the markets to anyone who would buy it.

Since then, we've helped repair roadways, put up guardrails on bridges, and painted lines on the highways. Baghdad has started to employ its citizens as highway cleaning crews, and the jobs the government has created by working with, rather than against American soldiers have helped to put families into homes. With food on the table. We have connected the city power, and cleaned up their waste disposal system. Regulating what is sold in markets has gotten kids off the street and into classrooms. There are some very good things happening here.

Yes, there are those who don't want us here. There always have been, and I'm sure there always will be. But we are working with the Iraqis to build a better nation for them. Really. We are. I have worked with many Iraqis since I've been here, and they all express to me the fact that they appreciate our presence and want our help, but when they are able to stand on their own, they look forward to American soldiers being able to leave. I couldn't agree more.

Here are some of things you just won't here in the news:

I've been shot at. Numerous times.

I've been hit. Once.

I watched a soldier of mine get his face blown off. I later wrote a letter to his wife, expressing my condolences for her loss. She had just found out the day before that she was pregnant with their first child and hadn't yet told him. She sent me an email today: it will be a little boy.

I once held an Iraqi man in my arms as he died from wounds caused by an IED. Later, it was discovered that his neighbor, a friend of his brother's, had detonated the explosive.

A friend of mine convinced a man not to kill his daughter, who was suspected of having lustful thoughts about a man she wasn't married to. The girl's mother, who disagreed with the father, swore an oath that day that she would repay the "kind American soldier" for saving her daughter's life. To this day, she still brings fresh fruit every Saturday. This happened six months ago.

Just yesterday, a seven year-old Iraqi girl who was riding in a car with her parents was shot. By Iraqis. I watched it happen--just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Her father was driving and crashed into a barrier to avoid the gunfire. Her mother went through the windshield and died instantly. Her father sustained severe head trauma and will probably be mentally handicapped for the rest of his life. I held that little girl's hand for twenty minutes while we waited for the helicopter to come in to take her to the hospital. I told her, in Arabic, that everything would be alright. That I wouldn't leave her, that she could squeeze my hand as hard as she wanted to and I would be there. I used my own uniform to stop her bleeding, and no matter how much I wash it, the blood won't come all the way out. I flew with her to the hospital. I held her hand as they operated on her. She asked me last night what my name was. I told her, and she said she wanted to give me an Arabic name: "Noor". It means "light".

I don't tell you these things to make you sad, or to make myself into a hero, which I definitely am not, or to scare those of you with loved ones over here.

I tell you these things because I want you all to know that you can't believe everything you see on the news. There are a lot of good things going on over here. Amazing stories that you just won't hear about unless it's directly from a soldier. American soldiers work with Iraqis every day so that they will be able to rebuild their nation and stand strong on their own feet as a proud people. I am an American soldier, and I believe in what we are doing here. I believe in the Iraqi people, and I know from first-hand experience that the things I do--the things we ALL do over here--matter.

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