11 March 2008

Children of Ramadi

These children are incredible. Very shy at first, they quickly warm to our presence, and before long are asking to have their pictures taken. They are very smart, and even though they have suffered a great deal during the war, still have most of their childlike innocence intact. Cries of "Meestah! Meestah!" ring loudly as we walk down the street during our four hour foot patrol through the very neighborhood where J.T. and the other eleven men lost their lives on 6 April 2004.

Along with Capt. Martin and USMC 2/8 Weapons Company, we visited a local school that the Marines are supporting. Captain Martin, John and I visited several classrooms, in which we asked the boys to recite their ABC's or count to twenty. Many were successful, and were rewarded with a pen or pencil. Unbelievably, pens or pencils were the items that children wanted most (other than chocolate'.) From what I understand, the children need school supplies desperately. The U.S. government is buying them new desks (and supplying the old desks to new schools being built,) but they still need the most basic supplies, especially pencils.

Although the security situation has changed greatly, we are still very aware that this is not your average neighborhood stroll. Many of the men smile as I pass, yet other older men hang back in the shadows of their shops and glower as we make our way down their street. New construction (or rebuilding) is visible almost everywhere you look, but almost every building still bears the scars of the fighting that was a constant fixture until October of 2007.

In spite of being raised in this dangerous place, the children were quick to smile, and attempted numerous times to engage us in conversation. My Arabic is limited to a few phrases, but the universal language of humanity enabled us to communicate in very basic ways - a smile, a gesture, an outstretched hand offered as an invitation for a handshake, a thumbs up, and even the "pound it" gesture of fist to fist were a constant.

Of course, many of the children offered to trade me watches, candy, or other trinkets for my sunglasses, camera, and cell phone. (I somehow refused these "generous" offers!) The girls were the hardest to photograph, as they were generally sequestered from the boys, often within high walled courtyards, attended closely by their mothers or other women. However, as you can see from the photographs, all the children were quite precious, and we enjoyed our time with them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

John and Greg:

You were correct when you said the children
are precious. Tough to believe looking at
these photos that they do live in fear.

So relieved to know that you have come to
the end of your journey.

Miracles have taken place.

Continued blessings,