By Army Sgt. Waldemar Rivera
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 16, 2008 - U.S. and Iraqi soldiers made April 13 a happy day for Iraqi children at two schools near Taji, northwest of Baghdad. Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division's 225th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team "Warrior," and Iraqi soldiers from the 9th Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 34th Brigade, brought toys and school supplies donated by American children to the Iraqi students in a mission dubbed Operation Bounty Hunter Pencil.
Army 2nd Lt. Lauren Bowen, a native of Roscoe, Ill., and a platoon leader with Company A, 225th Brigade Support Battalion, conveyed the American children's spirit of giving.
"These toys were sent to you children with lots of love from the American people," Bowen told a classroom full of children at the Asim bin Omar school in Sab Al Bour.
The U.S. and Iraqi soldiers helped distribute the toys and school supplies among the rows of children in the classrooms. After the distribution of gifts was done and after a signal from the teacher, the children said, "Thank you very much" in English as a token of friendship.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Yvonne Barnes, a Lane, S.C., native, said it was an honor to deliver toys and school supplies from American children to the Iraqi children.
"It was my first contact with Iraqi children, and I was impressed of how well the children verbalized English phrases such as, 'Thank you very much,'" said Barnes, the operations sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 225th Brigade Support Battalion.
Next, the convoy headed toward the That Al Natakhein school, also in the town of Sab Al Bour. Toys and school supplies were distributed among the students by soldiers from both armies, once again under the supervision of school officials.
The event closed with a promise from Bowen to return to both schools with more gifts from the American people.
(Army Sgt. Waldemar Rivera serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)