Monday, November 14, 2005

“Homecoming Ceremony,” it will be located at Baylor University’s Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, TX on Saturday,10DEC05 at 2:00 pm

Staff Sgt Farr writes:

3rd/112th Armor BN (FIST)

Panther S-5 (Civil Affairs Team)

56th Brigade Combat Team

36th Infantry DIV (Texas National Guard)

Central Iraq


139,497 people around the world. That’s the latest estimate of people receiving the newsletter as of Sunday, 13NOV05. I write this final newsletter with both a heavy, but proud heart. Heavy at the thought of leaving so many wonderful people behind, not knowing what will happen to them in the coming weeks, months, and years. From our interaction with the children to the receptive adults inviting us into their homes for chi (tea), these are memories I will cherish with a proud heart until my dying day. I have enjoyed my time getting to know the people in this area and Saturday was an emotional day for me, saying “see ya later” (good-bye to me means I will never see you again, something final. I rarely if ever say it because in the military I know I will cross paths with you again…even the Iraqis) to the many friends I have made here. I heard 100 times if I heard one, “Thank you for what you have done for my village, my family, and the people of Iraq.” The team and the team replacing us were treated to one of the finest meals I have ever had. CPT Tatum, the OIC (Officer in Charge) of the new team commented on how impressed he was with the hospitality and how he looks forward to continuing the good relationship the Iraqis of this area have with the Americans. I think this day was especially beneficial for the new unit as they were able to see the relationship we have fostered over the several months we have been here. It’s one thing to tell them how much we are liked, but to actually be witness to the gratitude is something hard to deny.

We have done so much in the way of helping the Iraqi people in our AO (area of operation) that was never realized or appreciated by the other soldiers in the Battalion. They just thought we were handing out toys and candy, many still believe that to this day. How ignorant they were at what we were truly doing. I still believe we were the main reason they were able to sleep at night without the sound of constant in-coming or ambushes in our area of operation. Those children walking down the road waving at them wasn’t because the combat patrols were patrolling the area, it was because the Civil Affairs team took time to stop and visit with them, give them school supplies, and treat them like any other kid you see on the street back home, with respect and kindness. We were the ones out interacting with Iraqi people in a positive manner, hiring them to come to work on our base camp, rebuilding schools, erecting power lines, building water sites, and distributing much needed clothing and school supplies.

I watch these so-called military analysts who Monday-morning quarterback the war on FOX News and The Generals who never leave their secure areas in Baghdad voice how this is a complex war. The soldier on the ground fighting the fight can tell you that, first hand. On one hand we are fighting insurgents and the other we are trying to “Win the hearts and minds.” If you are successful in the latter, then you have an area such as the one we live in. One where the local population will see the good we are doing and not allow the insurgents to come in. Very seldom is the work of the Civil Affairs team acknowledged by the media or by our own commanders. Rarely do they receive recognition or accolades. The praises we received Saturday and throughout our deployment by the Iraqi people is recognition enough for me. No amount of medals on my chest will allow me to sleep better at night. But, knowing I came to Iraq and helped the people I once fought against will allow me to sleep a peaceful sleep.

The team has done an outstanding job and I’m proud to have served with them. I know each one is looking forward to a much deserved break and being reunited with family members and friends. But, as we have joked of late, we will miss each other. We know things about each other our own families don’t. We have done things, seen things and experienced things only soldiers will ever understand. No matter how hard you try to duplicate it, no one is ever as close as combat soldiers. Every war veteran can attest to it, just ask them.

I know many of you have wondered out loud if the newsletter will continue. I can tell you the newsletter published by this soldier’s hands and eyes has come to an end. But, rest assured someone from the new unit has stepped up to the plate and has volunteered to continue informing and educating. I have passed along everyone’s e-mail addresses and you should look for the new newsletter in the following week. I know everyone will extend the same courtesy as you have shown me, keep him on his toes with the e-mails.

Welcome to the “First Timers” receiving the newsletter. I hope you enjoy it and feel free to pass it around to as many people as you would like, that’s what it’s here for. Thanks for the continued support of the troops; we truly appreciate all the letters of encouragement, e-mails, and boxes. Finally, “if you can read this, thank a teacher, if you can read it in English, thank a Veteran.” Have a good week and Hook’em Horns, Paul.

Ask yourself this question: “Will this matter a year from now?” –Richard Carlson

Just in case there are some of you out there who have no idea who we are, here is a team photo so you can put a face with names. Standing on the hummers holding the Texas Flag, SPC Khan and SPC Blanchard, standing l/r; SSG Pena, SSG Farr, 2LT Colicher, SSG Wasson, SFC Loud, and SPC Moses, kneeling is one of our Iraqi Interpreters

We visited our friends at the “castle” again this week and word quickly spread we were there to hand out bottled water and school supplies. As usual the kids were very excited to see us and appreciative of the “gifts.”

These were just a couple of pictures I had taken in October, but had some how over-looked. When you have as many photos as I do it's hard to pick out which ones to use each week. Like I explained to someone just the other day, it's like trying to choose one of your children as a favorite, you just can’t do it. So I go with the ones that stick out and that I think you guys will enjoy. Mostly, I try to choose the ones that don’t require a lot of explanation.

As I have mentioned several times in the past, just our mere presence in the village causes the "Piped Piper" effect. We were in the village less than five minutes before word got out we were there, within that short time there was over 100 children that came out to visit with us.

This is one of those moments I mentioned earlier about cherishing. When the children learned this was our last visit, they came out to wave to us as we were leaving.

On my right is one of my good friends and his son. The elder gentleman is the Sheik of this particular village. He would always comment on how well I picked up the Arabic language. It pays to learn some key phrases in any language because it shows you care about the people you are working with. Plus, it’s a sign of respect especially when dealing with the elders of a village.

CPT Tatum with the new Civil Affairs team and SSG Pena also shown with the Sheik.

The nervous smile on my face is in response to being named "head guest" at this little get together. I was informed since I was the “head guest” it was Iraqi custom to be presented the head of the lamb. I kindly reminded them that I was not Iraqi, so their custom did not apply to me. Thankfully, they have a sense of humor like mine so they just laughed and placed the head in front of me anyway.

With a little imagination, I'm sure you can pick the head out of the pile of meat on the bed of rice.

Menu items included; lamb, rice, fish, tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, Iraqi cola, and fresh fruit. As custom in Iraq, the Sheik did not join us. But what he did do was come around and continuously add meat to my plate. He said one Iraqi man could eat a lamb by himself, I jokingly told him I believed him; it looked like he had eaten a small flock. He got a good laugh and added more meat to my plate.

Some of the new team members enjoying some Iraqi hospitality. SSG Shaw is seen drinking an Iraqi cola and SPC Cole is to his right. Of course you recognize my two interpreters. I think it’s important to show the adults too welcome our presence here and show their appreciation by either putting on a large feast, or offering chi (tea).

As this newsletter draws to an end, I cannot express enough the deep gratitude the team has for each and every one of you who have received this newsletter, passed it on to others and then either mailed boxes of donated items or sent the team care packages. We have forged some new friendships and I will try my best to stay in contact with y’all. I promise to send out one more newsletter once we arrive in the states and at the conclusion of our “Homecoming Ceremony.” That will be my way of letting everyone know the team has made it home.

As a final note to everyone, if you would like to attend our “Homecoming Ceremony,” it will be located at Baylor University’s Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, TX on Saturday,10DEC05 at 2:00 pm. I was supposed to provide a number of attendees on my behalf, but I didn’t think they would find 139,497 an amusing number. If you would like to attend and meet the team, we sure would like to meet you as well and thank you in person for your generous donations and continued support…it would be our honor.

Proud Thanks

Across the world, in far off lands,

On heaving seas, on desert sands,
You serve our flag, you guard, you fight,
Make despots quake and fear our might.
You show the world a fearsome face,
But do it with a noble grace.
The same steel fists that man the guns,
Unfold in kindness to little ones.

How can you warriors fight through the night,
Then hand out food when comes the light?
Unlike other armies, you American G.I.’s
Are not viewed with fear by civilian eyes.
Other nations see this and are amazed
Not us, we know it’s how you’re raised.
Wherever you serve, the world can see,
You’re the fine result of our democracy.

On this day of grace we send our prayer,
And give proud thanks to you everywhere.

Russ Vaughn
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Vietnam 65-66

There should be no doubt in anyone's mind who the real #1 is. A&M I truly feel sorry for you...actually, no I don't. The majority of this Brigade's chain of command is A&M Alumni, which accounts for a lot of things here, so I'm going to take a personal interest in seeing them suffer. You better get your 12th Man suited up because you’re definitely going to need her.

Hook’em Horns

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