Saturday, December 03, 2005

Developing Relationships at a Checkpoint

Yesterday my platoon and I spent a couple of hours at a military checkpoint visiting with the people who happened to be traveling the road that day. We apologized to them that we were taking up some of their important time, but that we have had problems with insurgents placing roadside bombs on this stretch of road, and we wanted to let them know we were trying to find out information to counteract this problem and provide the people with a safer route to travel.

As I visited with the people (through our interpreter) I noticed my cultural biases begin to fade away. I noticed that, just as with Americans, Iraqis come in all shapes and sizes, and have varying personalities. They are a very gracious people. Many of them have large families, which bring them great joy. They were all grateful for what the American military is doing to try to protect them and help them improve their country’s situation.

The more I visited with them, the more they seemed like someone I had known all along. The animation of one of them reminded me of my uncle. The dignity of some of the older men reminded me of older men in my hometowns whom I had grown to respect. And one of the women was a school teacher like my mother used to be and other members of my extended family still are.

I thought to myself after we left the checkpoint that more than ever I realize that we are all God’s children, and in many ways we are all alike. But I am glad that God saw fit, in his infinite wisdom, to allow us to develop different cultures, the exposure to which gives greater depth, color, and meaning to life.

I made a point to ask each person or group of people at the checkpoint whether they had any bad experiences with the American military. Nearly all had had only good things to say. Interestingly they cited many specific examples of how the Americans had helped them to improve their lives. In one case, however, a gentleman was not afraid to explain to us that his family and friends have had problems getting caught between the insurgency and multi-national forces. I sensed his frustration, and as I thought about this, my frustration level grew as well. I am frustrated at the goal of al Qaeda and the insurgency, which seems to be only to wreak indiscriminate death and destruction. American and other military forces’ main objective is to serve and build up Iraq and her people. The insurgency has no other goal than to tear down and destroy.

One of the greatest enjoyments that I receive while serving in Iraq is in getting to know the people and discovering with them that, although we have different religions, we have very similar values. We fear God, we practice charity for our fellow men, we place great emphasis on the importance of family, and we believe that God will reward in the next life those who strive to do good in this life.

As I get to know more of the Iraqi people, I am growing to love the Iraqi culture. I just wish the insurgency did not make it so difficult for me to become their friends.

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