April Update From Iraq


Written by Chaplain (Maj.) Joel Miller

Published April 09, 2004


Some of the Iraqi children and teachers at a school that the 116th Engineers are working to rebuild.
Photo Courtesy of Utah National Guard


Some of the Iraqi children and teachers at a school that the 116th Engineers are working to rebuild.

TALLIL AIR BASE, UR, IRAQ-Ahhh, spring time in Iraq. The temperature is a rather cool and comfortable 108 degrees, the gnats and flies are humming, all the time. There are little birds flying all around, actually, they are these large beetle type bugs that are about four inches long. The fragrant sent of raw sewage in the streets alerts my senses to remind me that this is NOT my happy place. On the bright side, with all the dust and sand in the air, my exposed skin is getting a good exfoliation.

     Although the climate and conditions are getting worse, I still find serenity in the service that we are rendering here. Our design engineers are going out daily on work site expectation jobs and coordinating with local building and civil authorities. All of the projects will improve the quality of life for the Iraqi people. We are planning several projects from: rebuilding schools to fixing irrigation and water systems, to rebuilding a very damaged and dilapidated sewage system, building a city dump and to improve and protect the highway.

     I know building a dump or sewage system doesn’t sound very glamorous but it will greatly improve the quality of living for the Iraqis who have no place but in the streets to dumb refuge, this also includes human waste. There is a very high mortality rate in this part of Iraq due to the exposure to infections and disease. This is especially true of the very young.

     I am impressed with the resilient and dedicated spirit of our soldiers. Many of whom have sacrificed much to fulfill their duty and responsibilities. We have soldiers who have lost their businesses, or who are making far less then they were in their civilian employment. It is an amazing group of Americans who are giving of themselves so others may have freedom, security and a better quality of life.

     Each soldier in the 115th, as in all military units, has their own story. Each has their own reason for being here. But what is common and unwavering is that each are dedicated to the ideals of our Nation and to provide a democracy to those who have yet to taste the sweetness of freedom. I can’t say if the Iraqi people will do well after we hand over the country to them, especially now with much turmoil in the streets, but at least we can say we tried.

    I’ve received e-mails from several of you asking how I am doing right now and if I am safe. I am well. We are vigilant and professional, and we are doing our duty, regardless of the external threat.

    I’ve always said that this mission is bigger than all of us. There is a higher reason for us being here than just to be a military presence in a land of instability. I don’t know if the Iraqis will be our friends as a nation in the future, but I do know that we are building more than schools, roads, sewage systems and dumps; we are building relationships that I hope and pray will endure forever.

Some of the boys from the school in Aug Ash Shuyukh posing
Photo Courtesy of Utah National Guard


Some of the boys from the school in Aug Ash Shuyukh posing

 with Chap. Joel Miller. 

  Well, I need to get back to work. Keep in mind that on your worst day when everything seems to be going wrong. The weather is bad or you just can’t pull it together, just say to yourself, "Well, I could be in Iraq", that should change your whole perspective. If it doesn’t, you need therapy.

Much Love,