Photo Courtesy of Utah National Guard
the Iraqi children and teachers at a school that the 116th Engineers are
working to rebuild.
Tallil Air Base, Ur, Iraq
My days are very
full with trying to get situated in my office at the Religious Activities Center
and with providing support to my unit, subordinate units and to subordinate unit
I took a
group of 20 soldiers to the Chaldean Ziggurat. It is a 4,000-year-old temple
mound that the Chaldeans would climb to the top of and offer sacrifices to the
Moon God; often these where human sacrifices. We met Deiff, our guide, who was
very knowledgeable and spoke very good English. We not only visited the temple
mound, but we went into the ruins of another temple, walked around the remains
of the royal palace and explored inside the royal tombs of the kings and queens of
Ur. We also went into the boyhood home of Abraham.
awesome experience to walk on ground the prophet Abraham walked to glimpse back
into time and see how an ancient people lived. The spirit of this place was
exciting and I couldnt help but think how after years of exposure to the
elements, looting by thieves, and warfare, that such an edifice still stands.
went with some of our Design team to look at the work being done on a school,
whose renovation we will be supervising. The 115th will be overseeing the
work being done on about eight schools in the area. Other community projects
will be added in the near future. The majority of the work is being done by
hired Iraqis, and we act as the building inspectors. However, we must see the
work on a daily basis to ensure quality and integrity.
Chap. Joel Miller
standing in front of the Chaldean Ziggurat,
a 4,000-year-old temple that
the Chaldeans would use to
offer sacrifices to the Moon God.
leaving the air base, we "lock & load" all weapons. As a chaplain, I do not carry a weapon and so I did the driving. This was definitely an interesting experience. We obeyed no
traffic laws except the ever-popular Iraqi law "the bigger vehicle
has the right-of-way" or, if the vehicle you are approaching is smaller but
heavily armed, they have the right-of-way. Therefore, we always had the
right-of-way. We drove through An Nasiriyyah like a "bat out of
drove 40-50 miles per hour through heavy traffic, I thought several times
that we would get into a terrible accident but, surprisingly, the people and
vehicles got out of our way.
We passed the
Italian headquarters in which 19 Italians were killed in an
attack a few months ago. We passed the hospital
from which Jessica Lynch was liberated. We drove
through what I would consider the most deprived and dilapidated civilization in
The school we
went to was in Suq Ash Shuyukh, a boys school that is in such a
neglected state that
I would have thought that they would have bulldozed it and built a new one.
Although there was damage from the combat phase of the war, much of the
dilapidation was due to years of neglect. Once the Shiites in the south rebelled
against Saddam, he cut off all funding and support; thus these
communities are beyond the poverty level that we have ever seen in America or other
parts of the world.
It was a
profound experience that I think I shall never forget or even recover from. We
were relatively safe and always alert, and we personified force. Aside from
some rock throwing, by the Iraqis, there were no incidents. It was very strange, though, to see
individuals just walking down the street carrying AK-47s; everyones got one but
not everyone is a threat. We did receive a lot of cheers and thumbs-up from the
kids, and many of the adults were friendly. However, though they are glad we are
pouring money into their communities and that we got rid of Saddam Hussein, they
are anxious for us to leave.
would create more chaos and minimize progress. We are providing
stability in this country. The Iraqis are by no means ready to manage their new
freedoms without assistance. Also, there is a growing concern with a large group
of moralists who go around killing those who are not adhering to the strictest
precepts of the Islamic faith. They are not too warm towards us as well.
Just another day in fabulous, fun-filled, Iraq.
As always, I
appreciate your love and support. Many have asked what they can send me and my
soldiers. What I really would like to see is a concerted effort to provide
school supplies to the students of the schools we are working on. There are
lots of kids, 300-600 per school, and they have nothing. They need pencils,
crayons, paper, notebooks, rulers, scissors, etc. We have to give them to the
kids directly because if we give them to the teachers, they will sell the
supplies on the black market. But the teachers need teaching supplies as well.
Anyway, it is just a thought, but had you
gone with me yesterday, you would want
to do whatever you could for these kids.
Some of the boys
from the school in Aug Ash Shuyukh posing
with Chap. Joel Miller.
our Lords Spirit be with you to help you realize the blessings that you've been given.
May you never take them for granted.