This week I have been briefing each of our four companies on awareness of and sensitivity to the observance of Ramadan. (That's me above discussing a PowerPoint presentation with the soldiers of Workhorse--our Headquarters Company.) We have soldiers participating in the training of the new Iraqi Army forces, soldiers who work with civilian translators, leaders who interact with local leaders, and all of us come in contact with civilian contractors here on FOB Speicher who maintain our facilities, cook our food, provide laundry services--many of whom are Muslims from southeast Asia and west Africa. Awareness of the observance allows us to be even more respectful of our host nation.
Unfortunately, the month of Ramadan is not only marked with celebration and reverence--but with heightened hostility as well. Muslims believe that their righteous acts have greater significance when committed during Ramadan. As you well know, a radical few believe righteous acts include violence against those committed to establishing a free Iraq, and this includes violence toward our soldiers and those civilian contractors who are helping Iraqis rebuild and fortify their nation. The majority of hostile acts occur on the road in the form of IEDs (improvised explosive devises)--whether static or vehicle born. This is a reality we face and one for which we regularly train. Finally, this type of training helps ensure against embarrassing events that inevitably make their way into the news--despite the abundance of positive stories available. We already knew that "good news" does NOT sell, but it seems to be especially true with regard to our work here. Although many of us have our doubts about whether our nation's efforts here will pay off in the long run, all but a few of us believe that it is essential that we continue to try--and we are committed to this, even if our grandchildren are the first to see the fruits of our labors.
With regard to the profound lack of positive reporting, I should note that it is contrasted by the overwhelming support we receive from family, friends, and neighbors back home. Most of the care packages and other forms of support that come our way are from complete strangers, which is quite heart warming. While I was home on R&R and traveling through civilian airports, I was stunned by the forwardness of the American people in offering us encouragement and support. One man paid to have my economy-class ticket upgraded to first-class; a young couple asked me for the first names of some of our soldiers who are having a particularly difficult time, so they could pray for them--and these people were strangers!
A friend of mine pointed out that my blog is missing a picture of Benjamin, so let me--the proud father that I am--share with you a few of my favoritesof those that I took during R&R:
- Ben the Shark
- Slumber Party in the Camper with the Cousins
- Hooking up Ginger to Her Leash for a Walk
- Fire for Effect