Wednesday, July 29, 2009
A very special guest blogger today. I found my way over to Rebecca's blog via Billy Coffey's blog. Turns out they are from the same neck of the woods. Rebecca's blog is an outgrowth of her husband's deployment to Iraq, hence the name "The Reluctant Homefront". I asked Rebecca to guest post for me because a) she's a great writer, and b) it seems all we ever hear about from the media is bad news when it comes to the war. I think we should take the opportunity to celebrate the good things going on over there. It's also a good reminder to keep our service men and women in our prayers and be thankful for their sacrifices - for their country and their families. So, enough of me - here's Rebecca:
The vehicle bounced and jounced down the dirt road. Rattling around the turret one could look out and see a steep drop-off to the first side, a muddy canal to the other. The mechanical hulk was only going 35 mph, but still the soldiers below were lifted several feet in the air and jarred their heads against the metal ceiling with each hole or rut the wheels hit. The sun scorched the land as the road stretched out as if going forever, a dusty tan ribbon running ahead of the convoy.
After passing more and more of the same dusty sand and rocks, the convoy drove up to a little hut in the middle of a field. It was little more than a hovel, sticks held together with mud and baked solid in the heat. The tussled soldiers filed out of the vehicles and smiled as children peered out the door at them and shuffled out, some shyly, others with excitement. These soldiers had been here before, and had noticed the poverty of the little family: a man; his wife and a mother, sister, or aunt; and five children like stair steps. They all lived together in the little mud hut barely the size of a bedroom back home in the States. The family was friendly, though. The children had waved at the convoys before, and the man was most welcoming in spite of the language barrier.
This little farm family had touched the hearts of the soldiers, and while out on a mission to detect those who set up the mortars which showered the base every night, they wanted to help however they could. The soldiers brought MRE meals, drinks and water, and two soccer balls to brighten the children’s day. Ever grateful, the man volubly expressed his thanks in his own language. The soldiers did their best to understand without the help of an experienced translator, wishing they had been able to bring one with them just to speak with this man. They wanted so much to help and to show that they cared. After each side struggled to express themselves, the soldiers had to move on. They filed back to their vehicles, one reaching a tanned hand out to tousle the hair of one of the little boys as they raced past the men and women to the fields beyond for an impromptu soccer match. Although the soldiers would have many other missions, this family would stay in their minds: the poverty, the gratefulness, and the gracious welcome to strangers from another land. They could have been seen as armed and dangerous. Instead they were welcomed as friends and protectors.
I didn’t witness this first hand. This sight formed in my mind as I smoothed cool sheets under my hands, straightened a coverlet, and settled on the edge of the bed to listen to my husband’s story. I relaxed into the mattress as he led me through that day, happy to share a good memory of helping others. I heard the satisfaction in my husband’s voice as he spoke about reaching out to the people he meets on missions now. A prior operation was training the civilian police force, something he found was often frustrating and repetitive. This new set of orders has enabled his unit to travel among the Iraqi people, and while there they are free to help in whatever ways they can. The soldiers are most fulfilled not in battles or taking down enemies (although they feel successful when those things occur), but in doing what they believe is their larger mission: aiding the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives.
I listen to these stories of the sun-baked desert from my rain-drenched house and feel more pride than ever in what we’re doing. Our family gives up its leader for a time, sharing his strength and care with another family thousands of miles away. No matter how the war was begun, the soldiers want to win it. One touch at a time.
To read more from Rebecca, visit her at The Reluctant Homefront