I have been wondering all week what God was going to give to me to share with you all and now I know. I have been in country 7 whole days now, and we have had more mortar attacks than days on the ground, making the fact that we are in a combat zone very real.
On a brighter note I have been given the responsibility to lead the Air Force side of the base in humanitarian work off base. The Army program, Operation Anaconda Neighborhood, funds projects to improve the quality of life for Iraqi citizens to include construction of water purification systems, renovation of schools and clinics, and the distribution of clothing and supplies. This says a lot about our country, that we have a military unit whose sole responsibility it is to build schools, water treatment plants, and do programs to help the local communities where we are based. The humanitarian missions I will plan will go into Iraqi schools under heavy guard, of course, to give out supplies for the school, the teachers, and the students.But tonight the war was about as real as it gets. We had a patriot detail to do. A patriot detail is an honor we give to servicemen who have fallen in combat. While I can’t give out details, the service I was asked to lead was very moving as we loaded the flag-draped boxes onto the aircraft. It was touching to see members of the unit come out to act as pallbearers and so many who did not even know the deceased attend just to honor these brave patriots who gave their lives in defense of American and Iraqi freedom.
When I saw the flag draped-boxes I stopped, paused and caught my breath. All I could think to say was thank you. So if you can, stop for just a moment as you read these words just to say thank you to these who we said good-bye to today. And remember their families who will soon be reunited with their loved ones as well.
Let me tell you a little bit about this area so you understand what we do and how great the need is. The area around our base is all farmland and a very agrarian based economy. There were no schools in this area for the children living in this part of Iraq before we arrived. Children were taught by parents at home while they worked the farms in the small villages around Balad (a small town just west of us). It is great to know that the Iraqi people have more resources to improve their quality of life now than before we arrived. My task is to take a small contingent of people to a different school to hand out the needed supplies. Our first trip is coming up, and I am excited to get to do something for the Iraqi people. You may remember the Berlin airlift or at least learning about it in school — how American servicemen helped so many in Berlin and kept them sustained with needed supplies. I can’t help but wonder what the history books will say about this effort.
If you would like to be part of this effort to help the Iraqi people, there are several ways to become part of the team. Let me start by saying money is not recommended as it causes difficulties for me to account for the funds as we have no depository here. If money is collected I would say use that money for shipping costs. Donations of new or gently used clothes, shoes, school supplies, coloring books, children’s books, toys, sunscreen, bug spray and toiletries are welcome as well as the Operation Pencil Box program materials found on the www.operationiraqichildren.org website.
Many of you have asked if I need anything. I really do not need anything. The military presence here is so strong that we are well taken care of. Are there things I miss? Sure, but these are not usually things you can send in a box. A letter or an email is always a nice thing just to know that people back home are thinking about you.
Well this email has gone on long enough, and I will close. Thanks so much for being part of this journey with me.
ABPnews will publish one entry a week from the journal then-Capt. Charles Seligman kept while deployed to Iraq as an Air Force chaplain in 2005. Now a major, Seligman currently serves as the deputy wing chaplain for the 59th Medical Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He is endorsed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.