Soldiers bring cheer to others during holiday season
November 21, 2006
Washington (Army News Service, Nov. 21, 2006) - As Americans count their blessings this holiday season, Soldiers and other members of the armed forces are busy helping to make others happy around the globe.
Jasmine, an Iraqi child with unkempt hair and dressed in tattered clothing, reached for a pair of shoes. She was not concerned with the brand, style or even the size. She simply wanted a pair of shoes to replace the sandals she was wearing - sandals that were too small, causing her toes to touch the pavement when she walked.
Providing needed items like this pair of shoes was a highlight for Soldiers from the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, who assisted in handing out humanitarian supplies to Iraqi children like Jasmine at the Civil Military Operations Center in Radwaniyah, southeast of Baghdad.
"The support that the Iraqi people are receiving is great," said Sgt. Billie Caperton, a medic. "It feels like the Iraqis want us here, and it feels good that the American people understand the Iraqi people are in a tough situation and want to help them."
The items the Soldiers passed out to the children were donated by Americans back home.
<b>Camp Taqaddum, Iraq</b>
Three Medal of Honor recipients visited troops at Camp Taqaddum to share their experiences and to listen to the Soldiers' stories as well.
Among them was Command Sgt. Maj. Gary L. Littrell, who spoke of his Vietnam experience. He was awarded his medal for action near Dak Seang in April 1970, as a South Vietnamese military advisor. The combined unit came under intense mortar fire, killing the Vietnamese commander and one American and seriously wounding all the other advisors.
Littrell "exhibited near superhuman endurance" over the next four days, moving through enemy fire to distribute ammunition, care for the wounded and offer "encouragement to the Vietnamese soldiers in their own language," according to his citation. Littrell repeatedly directed accurate air strikes, which eventually defeated the enemy.
"We know why you're here," Littrell told the listening Soldiers. "You're here to fight terrorists on their turf to keep them from bringing terror back home to us, and we thank you."
The cries of a newborn never sounded so sweet, though a tough journey still lies ahead for the five-week-old infant. The fact the child still breathes is living proof of progress.
The Baghdad Teaching Hospital, also known as the Medical City Teaching Hospital, is responsible for the birth of this tiny miracle.
Born prematurely at 26 weeks, the tiny infant is still clinging to life five weeks later, said Lt. Col. Neil Ahle, the senior veterinary medical officer for 1st Cavalry Division, who works on civil affairs projects for the division.
"I think to allow that infant to survive in this environment is a real tribute to the Iraqi medical system," he said. "They have people in there who truly care about these infants and are doing the job they need to do. They kept this baby alive and I think they were celebrating that a little bit while we were there. That was heartening. It was good to see."
Ahle said the Soldiers' mission is to assess the needs of this functioning, yet challenged hospital, as well as two other hospitals and Baghdad's city morgue.
Uniformed personnel from other countries also give others something to be thankful about.
In a display of selfless heroism, Afghan National Police Officer Abbarker died protecting the lives of the Andar District governor, his fellow police officers and coalition soldiers.
While guarding the Miri District Center in the District of Ghazni, Abbarker noticed that a man had bypassed the security checkpoint and was attempting to run into the center. Abbarker immediately suspected foul play and gave chase to stop the intruder. He tackled the man, forcing him away from the others.
As he wrestled to restrain the man, the intruder detonated a vest packed with explosives, killing himself and the brave Abbarker.
Abbarker's actions cost him his life, but in so doing, he saved the lives of others. Abdul Rhaim, the Andar District governor, said Abbarker was a brave soldier and that he was deeply grateful for his unselfish sacrifice.
"The honor and bravery of this man amazes me," said Lt. Col. Steven Gilbert, commander of Task Force Iron Grays. "His actions have saved the lives of many fellow Afghans and coalition forces from the cowardly actions of a suicide bomber. His great sacrifice will not be in vain."
The San Diego-based U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) proudly recognized three California National Guard Soldiers serving on Joint Task Force Vista.
Sergeants George Cruz and Bach Zavala and Pfc. Jonathan Riley, members of Joint Task Force San Diego's command for Operation Jump Start, received commendations in a historic awards presentation. It marked the first time CBP officials honored people "outside" of its operation, according to Michael J. Fisher, CBP acting chief patrol agent.
CBP officials honored the Soldiers for their Sept. 7 initiative that led to the apprehension of alien-smuggling individuals. While en route to their listening point/observing point location the Soldiers heard an agency radio broadcast that told of a vehicle attempting to run down a CBP agent earlier that morning. The Soldiers spotted the suspected vehicle and maintained visual and radio contact until CBP agents arrived and stopped it.
"After the vehicle was stopped, the driver was taken into custody. A search of the vehicle revealed four illegal aliens," Fisher said. "What the Soldiers did exemplifies their devotion to duty and outstanding service to the country. They directed agents to the vehicle and helped the agents make an arrest that they may not have otherwise made."
"It just feels good to be appreciated by the agents. It feels like we're accomplishing our goal," Zavala said later.
She held back tears explaining why this day meant so much to the more than 2,000 orphans in the Shorish and Chamchamal-Kalar quarters of Kirkuk.
"Sadaam Hussein massacred their parents and destroyed their villages," said Surod, a local national aid worker. "Silly little things that are meaningless to you, like a pencil, mean the world to them," she said. "No one gives them anything."
Soldiers from the 325th Brigade Support Battalion distributed over 50 boxes of school supplies, toys, stuffed animals and soccer balls to more than 2,000 orphans in and around Kirkuk.
"A lot of American service members supported Korean orphans over the years," said Chaplain (Capt.) Martin Cho, a 25th Infantry Division chaplain who is a Korean-American. "Some of those orphans who received help became American and Korean religious, business and political leaders. My prayer is to do what I can to give these Iraqi orphans the same support."