Regardless of how many times I go on these types of missions, their impact is always the same. I am continually impressed and frustrated with the local populace, and I am always a sucker for the kids. If there is anything that will be forever impressed upon my memory from my time here it is a profound hope for the future of the Iraqi children.
This particular trip was to a school at a local village not to far from our base camp. We were able to sit down with the headmaster and the village sheik for a brief visit. As usual, the conversation quickly turned to the topic of what the Americans can do for them and poignant questions about particular projects they would like to have done in their village. Our Civil Affairs officer, CPT Sean Walton tired to explain to them that we do not have the liberty to randomly choose what projects are done and which village receives them. He also encouraged them to utilize their newly elected local leaders to lobby for the help they need. The concept is so foreign to them, they just don’t seem to get it, and before Sean could finish explaining what they need to do they were repeating their plea for American help. I could tell he was getting frustrated, but he handled it very professionally, but I’m not confident they got the point.
Afterwards it was outside to hand out some goodies to the kids. I’ve expressed before about how they can be extremely forward and demanding. I tried to instill some order and at one point shut the vehicle cargo hatch and tried to explain to them I wasn’t giving anything else out until they got in line and waited their turn. That lasted all of about a nanosecond and they were back at it again. At the end of it all, however, I’m just a softie and a sucker for kids in general. Besides, how do you say “no” to a kid who has no shoes, rags for clothes, no running water, and intermittent electricity?
You don’t….you just give.