MacDill Airman joins convoy, brings joy
by Airman 1st Class Shannon Emerson
Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq-- I had the privilege of accompanying the chaplain and a group of security forces Airmen on a convoy Feb. 15. The experience I had was life changing.
On my journey back to Kirkuk Regional Air Base an Airmen said, "This convoy is a great evaluation performance report bullet."
"What I saw and how I felt could never be expressed on paper," I responded.
I am going to try my best to help you understand what it's really like outside the wire.
My heart was pounding as we left the secure area. I had no idea what to expect. I was excited to see the kids, nervous to be outside the wire and anxious to get where we where going.
When you go on vacation the scenery is usually beautiful, but it's not a vacation out here. For miles there are buildings in shambles and garbage in random piles along the roads.
There is a town called Yaychi about 40 minutes away from KRAB. There is not much to the town, but then again there's not much to any of the towns here.
When we finally approached the school it felt like we had been on the road forever. Your body and mind are in such shock you don't know what to think. There were so many things running through my mind it was like a system overload, and then the kids came out!
We arrived too late to hand out the children's school supplies, though we did bring candy with us. As the kids ran up to us for the candy, I stood there frozen with tears running down my face. They were smiling and so excited to see us. I find it amazing how these children with nothing can still be so happy.
The children are cold and their clothing is inadequate. They wear sandals that most would never imagine wearing. The ones that don't have sandals go barefoot on the rocky roads. Their clothes are filthy and filled with holes that have been sewn up by hand.
Out of all the children in the town, only 280 actually attend school. The others have to stay home, herd sheep and work with their families. Donkeys take the place of cars for most families.
The children's homes are destroyed. There are huge holes in the roof, bricks have fallen into their living areas and they light fires at night to stay warm. I was shocked! A luxury to us is the only source of heat for them.
The school had a huge hole in the roof and a ditch in the floor that floods when it rains. There were four classrooms and the chairs are made of old scrap wood.
It took my mind about 20 minutes to really start taking in all of what I was seeing. When reality set in it was a real slap in the face! I couldn't believe how selfish I was.
I complain about being here and about our living facilities, when they would love to be in a MOD. When I'm full, I throw away what's left on my plate with out a second thought.
Here they fight over a piece of candy. The kids are lucky to have one pair of sandals that fit. I didn't really understand why we were here until now. They need us!
The people of the United States expect to have food, clothes, a home and a car. Here it's all a dream.
Everyday we take all the small things for granted. A pen to us is just something we use to write with. Here all you hear is, "Mister….. Pen" These children think pens are the greatest things around. Go figure… A pen!
Many people believe that we shouldn't be here, but I think they are wrong. Most people do not get the opportunity to see the situation first hand.
Our freedom didn't come free; we had help with our fight for our independence. Why can't we help them?
They deserve to have independence, everyone does. Every country has their problems and Iraq is no different. This will take time; it won't happen over night.
We are really doing a lot of good here. My trip touched me so deeply I don't think I can ever be the same materialistic person I once was. This is a trip everyone should have the chance to experience. It is such an eye opener.
I am not asking you to feel badly or agree with me- I'm just asking you to understand.