By Army Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 2, 2009 - The 20th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Fires Brigade, 2nd Battalion, couldn't leave here without a special goodbye to some local children they likely will never forget. The battalion is winding down its time here in Wasit province and as one of its last services to the community, the soldiers treated the children from the Kut orphanage to an evening of games, gifts and entertainment at the Rehanah al-Haydaryah Family Park on June 26.
"It was an idea to have an event before the American forces left that they could say goodbye to the Iraqi children, and it should be in an open area like the park," said Nisreen Abdul Raoof, the orphanage director.
Lt. Col. Timothy Bush, 2nd Battalion commander, and the Deep Strike soldiers have been working with the communities and Iraqi Security Forces throughout Wasit province.
The orphans enjoyed an evening of performances by the 34th Infantry Division band and games including musical chairs, water balloon toss, three-legged race and soccer. Deep Strike Soldiers also supplied snacks, drinks and gifts for the event.
"Before we met with Lieutenant Colonel Bush, we had a bad picture of American forces because of the media," Raoof said. "Before, they used to say the Americans were invaders and occupation forces. But after we met with them and talked with them, we found out that they have big hearts and are very human, especially Lieutenant Colonel Bush. He has a big heart and he has helped us a lot. He gave us backpacks and soccer balls for the school."
The evening's events were wonderful for the children and soldiers, Raoof said, but the biggest gift the soldiers gave was the gift of democracy.
"I would like to send my regard to all American citizens and the American army because they sacrificed a lot of soldiers in Iraq to bring Iraq its democracy," she said. "We have free speech. We can say whatever we want. We have political freedoms and can say our opinion.
"Right now, we have stability and we have good security in this province with the help of the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police. Right now, thanks to God, we are living free, and living in a democracy. We will always remember the Americans for helping us to set up the country like this."
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson serves with the 41st Fires Brigade public affairs office).