Fulfilling Jacob's wish
March 17, 2009
BELADIYAT, Iraq - A month after a Colorado boy collected his toys and sent them to Iraq, a group of U.S. Paratroopers distributed the items to children in eastern Baghdad's 9 Nissan District, March 16.
Spc. Greg Moreland, 25, a native of Hershey, Pa., and 2007 graduate of Penn State University, received the toys from his penpal Jacob Poehls, an 8-year-old boy from Summit Cove, Colo.
Jacob adopted Moreland as a penpal several weeks ago through the www.adoptaussoldier.org website. The two have become fast friends and have been exchanging e-mails on a consistent basis. Moreland said he looks forward to his e-mails from Jacob.
"It's great to see that there are people like Jacob who care about others and want to make a difference in people's lives even if they are thousands of miles away," said Moreland.
The adoption of Moreland however was not the first by the boy.
Several months ago, Jacob adopted Marine Gunnery Sgt. Baltazar Pineda, then deployed to Iraq. The two became great friends and Pineda encouraged Jacob, a special needs student, to improve in school. Their strong friendship was well-documented when the boy and his mother, Nora Hall, made an appearance on NBC's "Today Show" last month. Pineda joined them live, via satellite, from an undisclosed location in Iraq.
Though Pineda and the boy were penpals, the Marine was due to return to the U.S. after the donated packages would arrive in Iraq. Jacob and his family then decided to mail the packages to Moreland.
On a breezy morning in Baghdad, Moreland made it a priority to complete this wish for Jacob and all of Summit Cove.
"The people of Summit Cove put a lot of time into organizing and collecting these items," said Moreland. "I made it a personal mission to fulfill this request and make sure these gifts were handed out to the Iraqi children."
Moreland, along with Paratroopers assigned to the Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, handed out the box full of stuffed animals, along with the stockpile of cookies and candy to children at the Abuthare and Rufayda Elementary School.
The children gathered at the school's courtyard and eagerly waited as Paratroopers gave the children the donated items.
Through the use of an interpreter, Moreland showed a picture of Jacob stuffing the box full of the toys to the school's headmaster. Moreland told the headmaster that the toys and treats were donated by Jacob and his classmates at Summit Cove Elementary School.
"Thank you Jacob and all the people of Colorado," said Mr. Nanah Almohsen. "It's great to see that the children in America care about the children of Iraq. We are very grateful for this."
Moreland and fellow Paratroopers then walked into each classroom and gave each child a handful of candy.
After returning from his mission, Moreland got on his computer and e-mailed Jacob. Moreland felt it was important to tell him how his day went and that the toys were appreciated by the children. Despite being tired and going on 18 hours with no sleep due to working the evening shift, Moreland said he felt obligated to write the boy an e-mail.
"I felt I had to share this special day with Jacob and I couldn't wait to tell him," he said. "I want him to know that his donation is something these children will never forget."
Moreland said the experience of distributing the items and talking to the children will be with him for the rest of his life.
"This day will be with me forever," said Moreland. "I can't wait to tell this story to my family back home and show them the pictures."