In contrast, I thought I'd share a few photos of some of the people in Iraq whom we serve and who we hope will find a positive benefit to our service here.
Yesterday I joined one of my soldiers, SSG Mark Burrell, on a mission out to some of the more rural areas of Baghdad. While there, I captured a few images of the men, women and children we met.
For the most part these folks were friendly and talkative. I don't mind telling you that there is some reticence for soldiers to totally buy into the friendliness exhibited since there have been occasions in this conflict when once-friendly greetings turned to soured relationships. That said, the families we met yesterday were cordial, pleasant and there were enough smiles to go around for everyone.
We visited two small villages and were greeted promptly by the family elder, then quickly mauled by the children of the house. While it is a breath of fresh air to have such a greeting, the fact remains that we operate in a dangerous place and social moments surrounding our arrival can be distracting when we are trying to establish a defensive posture to protect ourselves from unknown threats.
However, we were out with some great soldiers who maintained their focus and a keen watch on the surrounding area that enabled us to get our job done without any hitches.
On the way back from our trip I asked the group of soldiers in my Humvee how they felt about their efforts out here. At the top of their responses were comments about the kids and how when they see these kids they are reminded of their own. The majority of the response wasn't about shooting guns, how the operation went or how the surge worked famously, it was about the kids.
I could understand that, I have three children back home too; a son and two daughters. For a parent in this situation, it's hard not to gravitate to the innocence of these children. It's a reminder that the future of Iraq just as the future of America, is in the hands of our children, in the hands of their children.
At our second stop, one of our soldiers brought out a soccer ball to give the kids. This is a normal practice that helps establish commonality between the local populace and U.S. forces; it's an ice breaker. Before long the kids, their fathers and our soldier were playing a little soccer. I'm not saying that soldiers bearing soccer balls in Iraq are going to change the world. But, I can tell you this, in that moment, amidst the smiles and laughs of adults and children, and the bouncing of a soccer ball, life here in Iraq was a great deal less threatening and more peaceful.