Photo Courtesy of Dr.
Dr. Jack is the
Utah National State Surgeon and is currently serving
a tour of duty in Iraq.
–December 25 is a rainy, overcast day in LSA Anaconda,
Iraq. Alert sirens have screamed, and lightning and thunder
have perforated the night. Perhaps this is the equivalent
of snow, silver bells, and fireworks for this country.
anticipation of the grand Christmas luncheon, only a small
continental breakfast was served this morning. Breakfast is
not a possibility for me anyway, since it is served from
6:00 a.m. until 8:00 AM, and my meetings go from 6:00 a.m.
until about 11:30 AM each day. The magnificent dining
experience was scheduled from 11:30 a.m. until 3:00 a.m.
experience and stories informed me that there would be long
lines most of the day, so I waited to don my raincoat until
about 2:30 p.m. Trudging through fresh puddles and pools of
mud, I reached the dining hall with wet only soaking my
clothes from the mid thighs to the top of my boots, the only
areas uncovered by rain protective gear.
There was a
line, but it was short enough to be protected by the
improvised plywood roof over the sidewalk. Behind me was a
soldier from Washington State, who regularly attends church
with us. His unit was due to leave this week, but they were
being delayed by the water and sludge that prevented him
from being able to efficiently load his equipment. He and
his comrades had been pushing slippery vehicles and
machinery up slimy ramps all morning, and were drenched,
drained, and discouraged.
offerings were quite impressive, including pressed turkey,
ham, fried shrimp, Cornish game hen, dressing, mashed
potatoes, half sections of corn on the cob, cornbread,
salads, and assorted pastries. An additional table contained
a pot of seafood soup/stew, with crab, lobster, and shrimp
it was near closing time, the dining facility was quite
full. People were relaxing and enjoying the dining, and
were not eager to exit to the soggy surroundings. Looking
around, I noticed some empty seats near an Iraqi National,
and a man wearing a U.S. Army uniform with an Islamic
crescent on the collar. Although many people had passed by
with full plates, no one had chosen to sit by them. I chose
to join them, and pulled up a chair by the citizen from
the tales that they told.
Photo Courtesy of Dr.
Dr. Jack in LSA
Anaconda in Iraq.
sitting across the table from me was a captain who stationed
Hawaii, but who has been deployed to Iraq for eleven months
now. He just found out that his one-year tour of duty was
extended by three extra months because of the Iraq elections
in late January. He serves as a chaplain, and is one of a
very few Islamic/Muslim chaplains in the service. He had
come to visit one of the Islamic members in his unit who was
injured, and who was being treated in the nearby Air Force
Syria, this chaplain went to college in Kansas, and studied
engineering as a major. There are 6 children waiting for
him to return home to Hawaii, with ages ranging from 4 to 16
years old. A year ago, his mother flew from Syria to visit
them in Hawaii. She had to return early, as she could not
stand the rampant immorality of Hawaii, even though the
family tried to keep her sheltered.
next to me was a shy, soft-spoken Iraqi interpreter who
learned English in school here in his native country. He
has never been to the United States, but if he goes, he
wants to visit Hawaii. Iraq now celebrates Thanksgiving
concurrently with the United States, and he likes the custom
of having a large meal, with ice cream for desert. He also
does not mind Christmas, for largely the same reasons. One
of the reasons that he is here is because his brother, also
an interpreter and employee of the United States Government,
was involved in a terrorist attack, and had sustained severe
damage to his eyes.
One of the
brother's eyes was permanently blinded, and the other one
was damaged to the point that he needed sub-specialty care.
This problem is, as an Iraqi citizen, he must go to an Iraqi
hospital for further treatment. The Iraq hospital does not
have the capability to save his eye, and he would be in
danger there because of his strong affiliations with the
U.S. If he were a U.S. citizen or soldier, he would be
evacuated to Germany for proper treatment. With help from
the Muslim Chaplain, he was tying to get an exemption to
policy, allowing him to be transported to Germany. The
Chaplain stated that this gentleman was one of the few
entirely trustworthy supporters of the U.S., and related how
this man had, at his own expense, purchased hundreds of
blankets and supplies for his people with the money that he
had made as a translator.
had innumerable stories of how those people that were
sympathetic to the U.S. were killed. In fact, they said,
life was one of the cheapest commodities in Iraqi society.
First hand tales of how small, supportive gestures had
turned into disaster, rolled off of their tongues. I will
spare some of the details, but suffice it to say there is a
very strong Mafia-like presence in Iraq that must be
extinguished if there is any hope for freedom from despotism
interesting way to spend a Christmas afternoon! The two
Muslims and I talked until the dining room was nearly
empty. I left with an expressed wish that the brother be
granted an exception, and with the proclamation that the
purpose of Christmas was to affirm that we are ALL
it was affirmed to me that we are a fortunate and blessed
nation. I believe that Thomas Jefferson once stated
something to the effect that "the field of liberty must
occasionally be nurtured with the blood of patriots."
Christmas I trust that you will all remember and honor those
patriots, foreign and domestic, that have cultivated your
freedoms and comforts.
Photo Courtesy of Dr.
Hummers are used in battle as ambulances.