From the Frontlines: Bringing Smiles During Wartime (pictures included)

It's been about a week or more (I've lost track) of settling in here at the 225th Engineer Brigade Headquarters at Camp Liberty, Iraq. I won't go into details, but let me just say I am set up and ready to go. Security is high. You must always maintain what we call "situational awareness" no matter where you go and no matter what the mission.

Speaking of which, I just returned from a humanitarian mission to deliver school supplies to a school in northern Baghdad.

It took us nearly three hours to get to an area where it normally would take 30 minutes. That's because we had to constantly check areas for IEDs (improvised explosive devices). That tends to slow everything down. Safety and security first in the combat zone.

We finally arrived at the Um Araybia School where Iraqi children just flocked around us.

They were very happy to see us. And who could not return a smile to smiling faces.

We dropped off school supplies that were actually collected and donated by the 7th and 11th graders from Catholic High School of Pointe Coupee, Louisiana. Their English teacher is Brandy Gooserand, who happens to be the daughter of our Command Sergeant, Major Joe Major. Sergeant Natasha Green and Chaplain Jeff Mitchell helped hand out the supplies.

Sergeant Major Major was beaming with pride to see the Iraqi children receive their gifts, and the children were excited too. You can see a picture of me interviewing him with my small video camera. I hope to put together a video story soon and send it back home for you to see.

It's just so odd traveling through a war zone and seeing these children attending school. Then again, that may show a sign of progress.

I am told that the ratio of students to teachers here is about 80 to 1, so anything from pens, pencils, paper that we tend to take for granted back at home is very much welcomed here.

I will sign off for now.  God bless, Pat