In Iraq for 365

About my experiences in Iraq... the frustrations, the missions and this country... and the journey home

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Children are the future

I love kids. Their smiles. Their little noses with snot coming out. And those big blue, brown or hazel eyes. Kids are so precious. Since being home, I’ve been road tripping across the Midwest and in every area, the kids have their own signature. In Minnesota, the little girls wear bows in their hair and tiny, sparkly shoes. In Wisconsin, the boys mimic their pops in a Carhart jacket and tough-man hiking boots. In Illinois, the little ones look as if they could be running for office in the next year. They’re all so cute.

But it’s not the neat little outfits that make children so adorable. It’s their spirit. No matter where you are in the world, there is a kid smiling. The children don’t know they’re poor or their country is at war. And they don’t know they have bacteria inside their body. All they know is that when the sun is up and there is no rain, it’s time to run and chase something… with a big smile on their face and laughter from deep within so pure that it could put a smile on the grumpiest old man alive.

In Iraq, we could gauge the mood of a neighborhood by the kids. Normally, the children would surround me because I had a camera… “mister, mister, picture, picture.” These were the good neighborhoods, and I took some of the best “unpublished” photos. I have countless imagery of children high-fiving or hugging soldiers. This would be what the army calls “winning the hearts and minds.” But there’s so much more to it than that. You see, those kids love us and they are the future of Iraq. And more importantly, they made us realize that all the sacrifices are worth it. While their fathers may have never had a chance at freedom or an education, the children can.

This really hit me when I was at a gas station in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and this burly man held his baby girl in his arm. The little girl pointed at the newspaper stand, which boasted an Iraqi lady at a polling station, and simply said, “look daddy.” The man, obviously a Red Blooded American, said “Yes, honey, that’s in Iraq. Remember, that’s where your uncie was?”

So many American families have been affected by the war in Iraq and so many of us are forever changed… some for the worse; others for the better. But what we’ve accomplished over the past two years is unprecedented. We overthrew a dictator, rebuilt a neglected country that has so much potential and gave Iraqis the opportunity to vote. America should be proud of their men and women who brought this to the Iraqis, that’s for sure. But we should also be thankful for our Iraqi brothers and sisters. They went to the polling stations, knowing their vote could equal their death. Many voters received death threats, but the Iraqis didn’t care. More than 65 percent voted, ignoring the odds of death. They were willing to die, I believe, not for themselves but for their children.

Who wouldn’t risk their life to save their child’s?

55 Comments:

At 5:08 PM, Blogger FbL said...

Yup. Great post, again.

 
At 7:48 PM, Blogger JUST A MOM said...

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE KLEENEX WARNING??? I really wish you would think about getting all your posts and your pictures together and put them into a book. When you do this I want the first copy! keep it up.

 
At 8:07 PM, Blogger Some Soldier's Mom said...

Wonderful post. I was so delighted that the Iraqis had as much faith in their ability to self-govern as the American soldiers and much of the American public does. I was especially touched by the pictures of the Iraqis taking their children to the polls with them so that they, too, could experience the joy of freedom! My son is there to carry on the work the first two deployments started. I hope my child (and all our children) can help make a better life for all the Iraqi children.

 
At 8:34 PM, Blogger Mike O said...

The Iraqi turned sure was humbling. WOuld the American public turn out like that, given the same circumstances? No, I think it takes a few decades under tyranny, unleased by gutsy troops (all the way to the Commander-in-chief), to turn people that steely and resolved.

You knew it was being doone for the kids; you could tell that because, in several places, the women started coming to the polls before the men did. I've heard there are places people are reluctant to show their hands; not because they have the dyed finger, but because they didn't have one! Also heard discussion some foreign fighters are headed out now. All good signs.

 
At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear you loud and clear. As a child, I didn’t know anything of the outside world until I was in the sixth. grade. My brother and I went to school in a one room log schoolhouse with no electricity. Everyone in the area were hard working people that didn’t have much money. Even with that they seemed to raise a happy family with strong family values. Looking back to those times I realize, as children, we had unlimited freedom. After I got old enough, I joined the military and have been to many different countries. I always try and stay away from the affluent areas and instead visit the ordinary working class people. I thought I had seen the average poor countries, but having seen what little news of Iraq on TV, I had no idea what it was like before our troops went over there. I have looked all over the internet to get a perspective from the only source that tells it like it is - the troops who are there - who have been there - and the photo’s of the children and the people who are getting their first concept of freedom. I do wish you could provide us with some of the “unpublished” photos and relate some of your experiences with the common people. I saw some of the joy of the people who voted and wished I could be there to share it with them. What a great time in history!! You guys who went over there to make it possible - what a great job!!

 
At 9:49 PM, Blogger Barb said...

-- "Would the American public turn out like that..."
I don't think so, people don't go to the polls because it's raining here!
Not just for their kids - but because they want their kids to have everything better than they have it. That's why parents sacrifice - for the future.

You gave them a wonderful gift for their future - an election! Way to go :-)

 
At 5:55 AM, Blogger FVK said...

Smink -- Outstanding post. You're right-on. It's interesting to me that I haven't heard one "talking head" look at the Iraqi election from your perspective. Keep up the good work.

And you thought you won't have anything to write about once you got home.

 
At 6:51 AM, Blogger Kim said...

This was a tough one for me to read Sminky. My daughter is bound and determined to go into the service this fall. I want to keep her safe but have to admire her for wanting to go... I've tried for so long to keep her safe, now she wants to keep her country safe... Enough about kids. Now, where's my tissue?

 
At 7:19 AM, Blogger membrain said...

Excellent post smink. My favourite pictures of election day were those of Iraqi kids taking the opportunity to play soccer. Beautiful.

 
At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a link to a pic of kids playing soccer:

http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/kids%20and%20soccer.jpg

Yet again, fantastic post. I'm sure our first generation fought the revolution not for themselves but for their children. I pray that Iraq will see the prosperity America has without the complacancy. The people definately have the steel and the will to take their country up by the bootstraps and move forward in their march to freedom.

The terrorists lost this day and the children of Iraq and all the middle east have won. The spirit of the children you spoke of in this post I've seen in most of the Iraqi people you've talked about through your blog.

I agree you should put together a book, both with these posts and, if you can, your "official releases" made when you were in Iraq. No one sees these pictures of children high fiving soldiers, they'd rather show the carnage and destruction. The Chicago Tribune, the day after the elections, managed to find the one photo I've seen where the Iraqis standing in polling lines weren't smiling and even some looked miserable or mad. The other side needs to be shown. You've done a fantastic job of it here, Smink, but a picture says a thousand words, and hundreds or thousands of pictures depicting the same scene with different people speaks volumes beyond that.

If anyone has just found this blog, I highly recomend you read through all the archives. It truely has changed my perspective of what's happened down there. Plus, you'll find you really like Smink more than you do now.

Jake

 
At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...That last comment should have read "you'll like Smink EVEN more than you do now."

 
At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YO! SMINKIE!!! You ROCK!! Ditto on the idea of publishing a book of yer "unpublished" pics. The public definitely has a right to know "The Whole Truth" now don't they? "pool" Q sed it and i mean it too!!!!

 
At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is exactly how I felt when I started collecting these kind of pics back before the election. When the MSM was showing non-stop pictures of a chaotic Iraq, I was trying to spread these kind of images to as many people possible. I wasnt trying to paint a rosy picture of the conflict, but trying to show people what HOPE looks like on the face of an unmolested mind of the Iraqi child. I always told people, no matter what, these children will remember our efforts, that these children are the FUTURE of IRAQ.

Thanks for all you have done. Please think about publishing all or your Iraqi work including the pictures in print.

Thanks for being a part of making these http://www.pbase.com/kburch/the_picture_from_iraq_you_wont_see_in_the_news images even possible.

Sincerely
Karl Burch

 
At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for continuing your blog. Please keep it up for all of your dedicated readers!

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger GenaW said...

You are a wonderful journalist!! I cant stop reading your stories. Like the one lady said, you should write a book and put all your pics in, and I definitely want a copy. My son is currently in Iraq, I cant wait for the day that he comes home, and I hope that he will be able to tell me some stories, at his own leisure of course. Thanks for writing your stories, and thanks for what you did in Iraq, America is very proud of you all.

 
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