Skip to comments.Grateful Kurds thank U.S soldiers
Posted on 04/13/2004 3:33:47 PM PDT by Adam36Edited on 05/07/2004 9:20:33 PM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]
(Excerpt) Read more at tennessean.com ...
By ANITA WADHWANI Staff Writer
Group charters bus to visit Fort Campbell
The gifts kept coming.
''We stand here as a testimony to you that the war is not without purpose,'' said Isa Chalky, as he presented a clock inscribed with a similar message to Brig. Gen. Jeff Schloesser, assistant division commander of the 101st Airborne Division. ''And for returning hope to the Kurdish people. Please accept our sincere thanks for your enormous courage and sacrifice.''
Chalky was among 55 Kurdish immigrants and children who chartered a bus from Nashville to Fort Campbell yesterday to thank the soldiers of the 3rd Brigade personally.
The 3,400-member brigade returned from Iraq in February and March. Most spent the past year protecting Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. Many Nashville-area Kurds, who number about 5,000 families, have friends and relatives living in that region.
Little Ahmad Khoshnaw, 7, whispered his thanks as he handed the general an envelope.
Schloesser unfolded the notebook paper inside and read the message. ''Thank you for capturing Saddam,'' it said. Underneath were the signatures of 35 children. ''We'll frame this,'' he said. ''Thank you.''
Several women handed soldiers red roses. Two teenage girls delivered the flag of the Kurdish Democratic Party, a political party whose fighting forces in northern Iraq received training from the 3rd Brigade.
In exchange, the general presented the visitors with a silver plaque, a leather-bound history of the 101st Airborne and his thanks. Soldiers passed out coins inscribed with the Fort Campbell insignia.
The 3rd Brigade lost 16 soldiers in Iraq. Three hundred were injured, said Col. Michael Linnington, the top 3rd Brigade officer in Iraq.
Freedom, he said, ''was worth their sacrifice.''
Each of the Kurdish visitors who gathered in the meeting room yesterday had lost at least one loved one, Chalky said.
''We share your grief and your loss,'' Chalky said.
After the exchange, the soldiers and visitors ate lunch in the brigade cafeteria.
Sgt. Carl Bryant brought along photos.
''Here's the hotel in Dahok where we stayed,'' said Bryant, 30, who returned from the Iraq city Feb. 8 after nearly a year spent apart from his wife and three small daughters.
Tahir Hussein looked at the photo closely.
''That's where my father worked as a laborer while I was in middle school,'' he said.
Hussein picked up a photo of Bryant standing with leaders of the Kurdish military forces.
''That's where we would go for picnics in the evenings,'' said Hussein, pointing at a snowy field behind them.
In another picture, Bryant was dressed in Kurdish clothing and dancing with a Kurdish military man.
Many soldiers have fond memories of their time in northern Iraq, Bryant said.
After surviving combat in other regions, soldiers moved to Kurdish towns such as Dahok, where they trained Kurdish forces and engaged in humanitarian efforts, such as organizing food, water and propane distribution networks.
They spent their time mainly among civilians, learning Kurdish customs such as how to sit cross-legged while not exposing the soles of the feet considered impolite, he said and how to flick rice off their fingers after eating, said 1st Lt. Eric Alexander, an assistant operation and platoon leader.
Those Kurdish manners often came in handy on regular patrols through Kurdish villages, where soldiers were offered meals of rice, lamb and hot tea, ''more food than they probably ate in a week,'' Alexander said.
At the end of the Army meal, Hussein handed Bryant a pen with his office phone number on it and told him to call for a meal.
Another Kurdish man handed back Bryant's photos. ''Nice pictures, man. Good to have you back.''
Soldiers said the Nashville visitors were a testament to their experience that many in Iraq if not most welcomed the U.S. intervention.
''It was great having them here. I hope they all call their relatives and say we've met these guys and they're great,'' Bryant said.
In fact, Kurdish Special Forces have joined the Marines recently in the pacification of Fallujah. I am sure the Sunnis are not happy about that.
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