Helping Our Service Members By Helping Iraqi School Kids
Soldiers of the 115th Maintenance Company of the Utah Army National Guard are currently on active service in Iraq, near the city of Najaf. The American G.I.s have "adopted" area schools and have asked the folks back home in Utah to help. From the Knoxville News Sentinel:
The children run along the edge of the road as the trucks rumble by. Hands outstretched, hoping for candy and small toys, they bend their fingers into awkward "thumbs up," "OK" and "V for victory" signs.The entire article (Reg. info: email: westsmith1[at]comcast.net password: x223344) makes for some interesting reading.
The children run along the edge of the road as the trucks rumble by. Hands outstretched, hoping for candy and small toys, they bend their fingers into awkward "thumbs up," "OK" and "V for victory" signs.
Many of Iraq's adults may long ago have grown tired of seeing American troops on their streets, but soldiers in the area of Najaf, about 80 miles south of Baghdad, say the country's children are different.
"They seem to love the Americans and we need to work with that," said Jolleen Larson, whose husband is a member of the 115th Maintenance Company of the Utah National Guard. "We want them to have more experiences of seeing Americans really trying to help them."
To that end, Larson and other Utah Guard family members have begun to collect supplies for two Najaf-area schools adopted by American soldiers, including many from the 115th.
The schools are small and simple. Built by the British in the 1930s, one was crumbling when the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit came upon it last year. The unit built a new building and furnished it with new desks and blackboards. In their off hours, soldiers like Rusty Larson are now building school furniture - desks for teachers, bookcases and other items specifically requested by the headmaster.
"The children we see along the roads are desperately poor by American standards and how they live is beyond our imaginations," said Lt. Col. Samuel Giese, an Army chaplain from Maryland who is heading the project. "The school support project is a way of directing in a substantive way the desire the troops have to do something for the children."
Already, the basement of Bonnie Jensen's Taylorsville, Utah, home is filling up. The mother-in-law of Staff Sgt. Cecil Hawthorne volunteered the space for storage of the chalk, pencils, notebooks and other supplies destined for the Najaf-area schools.
Jensen's daughter, Jenny Hawthorne, hopes to postmark the supplies by July 20.
"It takes about a month to ship the stuff there and the kids start school on Aug. 20," she said.
Giese said every chaplain in his battalion has been charged with finding a school to support. Iraqischools.com, a Minnesota-based nonprofit group founded in late 2003, has estimated that its volunteers shipped more than a million pounds of school supplies to Iraq by last month.
Perhaps by helping the kids get ready for school, we'll help win-over the hearts and minds of the adults.
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