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 These were the good neighborhoods, and I took some of the best “unpublished” photos.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?