While I was embedded with the troops, an old friend and former Ashbrook Scholar, Julie Ponzi, sent a care package for me to Baghdad. Included with the cookies and much needed coffee was a box filled with toys that her daughter Cassandra, who must be six by now, had helped her mother send for the Iraqi children. On the day before I left Tuz, I went on a trip to visit some of the more remote Kurdish villages where Saddam had committed some of his worst atrocities, including using chemical weapons against his own people. While we were visiting one of the villages, some of the troopers handed out toys to the children. A little girl of around 4 (although it is very difficult to tell; my experience says that due to malnutrition she could have actually been 7) received a doll, and she just beamed. She ran around the village frantically with her new found prize. One of the guys I was with noted that given how poorly girls are treated in Iraq, that this small act of kindness may be something that will stand out as a high point in her life. When I then received Cassandra’s care package for the Iraqi children, it seemed obvious where it should go.
Since I arrived in Baghdad, I made a new discovery: Pizza Napoli. The Iraqi who runs the restaurant trained to cook in Sicily, and he knows how to make a pie. It is reported that this was Amb. Bremer’s favorite pizza place in town, and the owner explained to me that the CPA gave him a cell so that they could order pizzas from him. It seemed that this would be the right relief from the chow hall for the guys. And so, I ordered up a dozen pizzas, donned my bullet-proof Dominos uniform, and loaded them and the toys up for the 200 kilometer trip to Tuz yesterday--a trip through the lovely towns of Sulayman Bak and Baqubah.
I arrived at around 8:45 am, just after the action for the morning. At around 6:55 am, 1st platoon was out on patrol when an IED exploded directly beside their vehicle. Fourth platoon was assigned to the Quick Reaction Force for the day, so they responded to the scene. Thankfully, no one was injured, and despite the size of the explosion (I drove past the sizable crater), the vehicle looked relatively unscathed. As I was leaving for the day, I received news that they were able to catch the terrorist who set the bomb red-handed.
The troops seemed in fine spirits, and it was good to be able to catch up with them for the day. The drive back down to Baghdad redefined hot. My driver’s air conditioner wasn’t working, and the body armor made the outside temperature, which I would put at around 120, feel all the hotter.