2004-05-08

Flying Saucers over Iraq

From the Spirit of America update:

Following is a message and photo from LtCol John Lutkenhouse about the Marines giving Frisbees and soccer balls to children near Fallujah. You'll enjoy it. Photos are at:

http://www.spiritofamerica.net/blog/archives/000073.html#more



When the Marines asked us for Frisbees in January it was specifically because they would foster interaction between the Marines and the local children. The Marines knew there was not much they could teach Iraqi children about soccer but Frisbees offered a teaching and laughing opportunity. The real point is the interaction - that's where relationships are built and opinions formed. The gift itself is more of a side note. That said, soccer balls are very popular and we're providing them, too.



Soon you'll getting more information about our plan to increase the scope and scale of our efforts to help turn the tide in Iraq. For those of you who have expressed an interest in getting things going in your company or community there will many opportunities to help. Many of you have written to us saying that "we cannot afford to fail" in Iraq. I agree. So does everyone working on the SoA team. And, I know that in the last 3 weeks we've only seem a glimpse of what the American people want to do to help win peace and freedom for Iraq and Afghanistan. We're committed to providing focus and direction to your desire to help.



If you replied to our last message about the TV equipment being delivered to Camp Pendleton, we did not receive it. That technical problem has been fixed. An always reliable way to reach us is through staff@spiritofamerica.net



All the best,

Jim Hake & the Spirit of America team
-----Original Message-----

From: Lutkenhouse LtCol John F]

Sent: Thursday, May 06, 2004 8:57 PM

To: Jim Hake

Cc: Manske Col Michael W

Subject: Impact of SoA



Jim,



Here is a little write-up from a guy by the name of LtCol Colin McNease. He is the Civil Affairs Officer with RCT-1 (Regimental Combat Team 1), the guys that were involved in the recent fighting in Fallujah. He talks about a recent event in which the items donated by Spirit of America really helped him establish a positive relationship with folks in a local village. This is all the more significant when you note that the village is only 3K from Fallujah, the site of the heavy fighting a couple of weeks back. These are LtCol McNease's own unedited words and description of events. I thought you might like it. Also attached are some photos. LtCol McNease is the one standing in the group of children. Thanks again for your support and to all those who have donated to Spirit of America.



SF,



John



----------------

Message from LtCol McNease



We went out to the village where the tank got stuck, about 3 km northeast of Fallujah. The area is a dirt road farming village of conrete or mud brick houses strung along a single road which runs from a cemetery to a 'T' intersection. The people have gotten to know the Marines since the tank spent a week there before we could pull it out. They were friendly to the Marines who already felt bad about trashing their canals and fields while trying to unstick the M1A1. When we went out to pay damage claims for all the lost crops and date plam trees and torn up roads, we saw a lot of kids around and met a few of them. This made us think of the SoA stuff, especially the soccer balls and frisbees, we had been sent and had back on Camp Fallujah.



The next time we went to visit the village, we took as many of the soccer balls and frisbees as we could fit into the open space in the back of our hummers (around chow, water, ammunition, radio batteries, etc.) When we arrived at the village and parked the HMMVWs in the center, some shy but curious kids were peeking out from doorways or looking out their windows. But when we pulled out the soccer balls and handed the first one out, they started coming out like ants to a picnic.



None of them wanted frisbees at first, all really wnated the soccer balls. But when we ran out of soccer balls and kept handing out frisbees they would line up to take them, sometimes trying to get more than one, and many making sure their little brothers or sisters got one as well. They didn't know what to make of the frisbees at first, holding and throwing them like dinner plates, but once they had a little professional military education on how to operate the frisbee and were checked out on it, a lot of them became surprisingly good surprisingly quickly. I spent almost 45 minutes tossing the disc with one very young girl who got to be quite accomplished.



Some of the the kids' parents and some of the older kids who could read did pick up on the friendship message and would point to the english and then point to the arabic and give us a thumbs up to show that they understood that they meant the same thing in both our languages.



This took place at a time when we were being shot at in most every other place we went so it was particularly gratifying, and it was nice to have something good to give them. Other things they seem particularly crazy about are sunglasses (they always want ours) and colored pens.