Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Power of a Piece of Candy

Hopefully these pictures will tell a little story. This boy and his family were from a Sunni village we visited the other day. This was the first time we’d been to this village, and we’d heard most of the people were hardcore Sunnis, in favor during Sadaam’s rule. Our primary mission wasn’t to pass out gifts, but as you can see in these pictures, small gifts can work wonders. Anytime you go to a town like this, where you know there’s a higher likelihood the people may not receive you well, you tend to become more alert and focused than usual. In a town like this, where tensions may run high, there always seems to be a moment when you realize that everything isn’t as bad as previously thought. This was that moment for me.

It’s unfortunate that the media seem to only portray our relationship with the Sunni population in a negative light. I don’t pretend to think that we are liked by all of them, but based on my experiences, we are liked by many. These are but a few of the many, and these images are indicative of what I see on a regular basis. Maybe one day the media will open their eyes to it as well.

He looks to be somewhat intimidated by us
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Enter Sgt. W. , American, 3rd ID soldier, platoon sergeant, husband, dad, and all around good guy when he’s not mad as hell
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A gift is offered
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Looks to his family for approval
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Gets it
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A tentative friendship emerges
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All smiles
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Imagine if a soccer ball could take the place of that piece of candy. We could move mountains, and the media would have to eventually take notice. There are soldiers all over Iraq doing the same thing and achieving the same result that Sgt. W did.

We’re fortunate to have a platoon sergeant like Sgt. W. He can be mean as hell when he wants to, but he’s fiercely loyal, and would do anything for any soldier in his platoon. Sgt. W, Thomas, and I have been together for almost a year and a half now. We’re like a little family inside the bigger family that is our platoon. We’ve probably spent more time together than we have with our real families. There was a time, in late January of 2004, when I had spent more nights with Sgt. W and Thomas than I had my wife. We’d been married in December, but our unit spent the month of January in the deserts of California. For more than two consecutive weeks, Sgt W., Thomas, and I slept inside the same Bradley.

Ray, Thomas, and I have been with each other for the past three years. Not only are they some of the best friends I’ll ever have, but they’re like brothers as well. We were over here together during the invasion and the months that followed. We fought together, got shot at together, shot back together, lived together, slept together, ate together, and laughed together. It’s a good feeling to go outside these gates knowing those same guys are right there with you. They’re the reason I wanted to come back over here, why I didn’t mind being extended for the duration of this deployment. I’d have felt like I was letting them down if I wasn’t over here. They and the rest of my platoon are my family now, irreplaceable, the only people that matter. I couldn’t imagine not being with them. We keep each other sane amid the insanity. Hopefully we’ll all go home together.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Armed Forces Day!
Thank you for your service!! It's so nice to see some of the good things that are going on over there. I salute you, soldier.

8:27 PM  
Blogger thequeen said...

This blog is so awesome, I would like to read more blogs of soldiers who are or where in Iraq. It is very eye opening, because as you say, the media doesn't tell of the things you tell of. THey tell us of car bombs and beheadings. Nothing good can be coming of this action..... Why they do that I do not know. Thankyou for being where you are and thankyou for doing all that you are doing.I hope Operation Soccer Ball is a success, I have contacted some people I hope you hear from soon.

8:44 PM  
Blogger Mom said...

I also hope operation Soccer Ball is a huge success. It is wonderful how I can go to my computer and hear how Our Soldiers are doing. I know the media wouldn't print this because they believe it wouldn't sell. ( thats sad. )

7:24 AM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...


First, let me say I really think the way our guys and gals are trying to get along with the locals in Iraq and Afgan. is great.

It is the right way to get started with them and us getting to know and trust each other.

But, I have to tell you if you don't know the language and you don't talke to them, it is not going to have as much as an impact and benifits as it would if you could speak to them and understand the reply.

I know, I have not been to Iraq of Afgan. but I spent two years, thirty some odd years ago in a land far away.

The first year, sign language and a few words was all I knew. It helped but was not enough. So, I made the effort and learned the language. You can not believe the difference. You never will until YOU do it.

The biggest mistake Americans make, Military and Civilian is they won't make the effort to learn other languages.

It has cost us dearly and will continue to until we

Papa Ray
West Texas

9:15 AM  
Blogger Sneercat said...

Thank you for a view of Iraq that I never got while I was there. I spent last summer near the Airport in Baghdad and never got to see the people. I did learn that a smile is also a piece of candy/soccer ball, although not as lasting. Take care and dont' for get to treat yourself when given the opportunity.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice blog. You are all doing an outstanding job. God Bless you and keep you safe.

3:38 PM  
Blogger Desultory Girl said...

Wow, what awesome images you've capture. It really is the tinniest of gestures that give the biggest impressions. I can't imagine the number of times this happens a day there. It really is unfortunate that these things get hardly a mention. These are lasting impressions and they make all the difference in the world. Anyway, I'm glad that this was such a positive experience and that you were able to witness it.

Sgt. W sounds like my father...aggravating at times, but no matter what happens they'll always be there and they always have your back.

Pleased to hear that you've got such great friends, too. I like to think that if you have to endure certain experiences at least you don't have to go it alone. Shared experiences go a long way. You don't have to explain, justify, or rationalize anything to anyone because they already know. Glad you have 'em.

Keep safe and God bless. Praying that you all get home together.

12:42 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Thank you for your service.


1:21 AM  
Blogger devildog6771 said...

Great job, Mike. You guys are great ambassadors. Happy Armed Forces days[belated-lol]. Be safe and keep up the good work. We support you all 100% and are so very proud of you all!!

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if i had one wish i would wish i was american, you guy's rock it's good what you're doing out there, cheer's take care lad's.

11:59 AM  
Blogger exfbonnie said...

This was a great post. The pictures are wonderful! Have read several posts but hadnt commented till recently. You are a great writer, Michael. You have your very own and honest style of writing...
look forward to reading more.


4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since my injury I spend alot of time on the web. On another blog I found out about an advertising scheme that gives away free computers! I allready got one, didn't cost a thing. So I thought I'd pass along the info for anyone else on a tight budget. : )

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Beth said...

I smiled tonight when i saw the pictures and read your story. Reading soldier's blogs takes the engativity away that I see when watching the one ever reports the happy stuff. No one ever says "here, watch this video of the soldiers hanging out with the iraqis"..God bless, you all are in my prayers

11:41 PM  
Blogger ALa said...

I hope that 'Operation Soccer Ball' comes to fruition. I posted about it with a link to your site and have been calling around inquiring about the deflated balls...
These pics are great and certainly do tell a story --a story that one will never find in the pages of the NYT. You just keep making a difference Michael and we'll keep reading and supporting you in any way we can!

9:25 AM  
Blogger phil said...

This is a great blog, Michael. I found it a few days ago and I read every entry with great absorbtion and enjoyment.

The only other milblog that is on par with yours, in my opinion, is one called: "Just another Soldier" by Jason Christopher Hartley, a sergeant with the National Guard. I think maybe he's completed his deployment or something because he doesn't seem to be writing anymore. But his blog is absolutely sensational. Just like yours.

I mention him because in one of your entries, you mentioned that the National Guard guys you're working with over there are from New York. And this guy is apparently with the same unit. Who knows, you might even have met in passing.

I like blogs that are really deep and descriptive, and bring their subjects to life in ways that only great writers are capable of. Your blog, Michael, is one of the only two Milblogs I've found so far that seem capable of delivering this quality.

There's another blog from the Middle East that I also rate highly, although this one isn't a Milblog. Infact, it's written by a very intelligent Saudi called the: "Religious Policeman". I'll recommend it to you because, apart from the fact that it's extremely very well written, it also provides an insight into the Arab mind.

Well, thanks for all the good work you and your brothers are doing over there and I hope you get to waste at least one evil terrorist before your deployment is complete.

And give a big shout from us to your Missus and your little baby boy.

Phil, London.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Michael, it's Phil again. I just went back and checked one of the blogs I mentioned on my previous post only to find that the Religious Policeman has now been blocked, probably by the Saudi Government.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if it turns out the author himself has been either arrested or executed.

Sorry about that.

Stay safe.

Phil, London.

10:10 PM  
Blogger tmg said...

Thanks for the good news.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Shukri said...

Too bad that a bribe is required for someone to be our friend...

2:03 PM  
Anonymous tasleema said...

I looked, and looked at the pics. with the little boy. Endearing, reminds me of my little nephew.

I give candy to little kids too.

Thank you for the point of view that we don't see in the media.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Sunnye T said...

Bless you for your service to our country and for telling us what is really going on out there. You and your buddies are in my prayers. Be safe, keep blogging and thank you so very, very much.

8:58 PM  
Blogger Keenan said...

This is some of the most honest, vivid, and engrossing writing I have ever seen. In just a few posts you have opened my eyes to some truths that I was completely blind to.
Thank you for doing something everyday that I'm not sure I could endure for a week. You soldiers are the toughest s.o.b's on earth.
You seem like someone that I'd like to meet if only to shake your hand and express my gratitude and awe at your utter badassness. Although I'm sure you would still be humble about it.
Thank you and God Bless,
Keenan Laird
Anchorage, AK

8:15 PM  
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