Here’s a story from David Zadel, a marine in Iraq:
I feel compelled to write of an experience that occurred a month ago. We had recently driven an insurgent force out of a small town north of Fallujah. The insurgent force left without fighting and the town was largely abandoned.
We had expended much effort clearing the town of the weapons and ammunition that the insurgent force had left behind. People in time occupied the town again and we were determined to provide security for those returning.
My platoon and I were on a security patrol in the countryside on the outskirts of the town when one of our vehicles became stuck on a narrow road bordered by a canal. It was in danger of rolling into the water. We had to stop our vehicles which can be very dangerous.
A family that lived nearby came out of their house and began to move toward our patrol. They were smiling and waving. There were children playing everywhere. The women prepared food and the eldest males met with us.
Our vehicle was badly stuck and we needed chains to remove it. At this point, the surrounding families joined us and showed us tremendous hospitality. This is remarkable because often times, local terrorists will sometimes intimidate those who help us or show us kindness.
Without prompting the men brought out shovels and began to dig out the wheels of our vehicle that were stuck. With much effort, working together, we succeeded in removing our vehicle from danger.
It then struck me. In the middle of the Al Anbar province, where so many Marines and Iraqis were dying together in such senseless violence, this one tribe reached out to us. During all that was transpiring around us, the maelstrom of violence in Fallujah, the negative reporting from self-righteous media, and mistrust that arises from unfamiliar cultures, there was this tribe that we shared smiles with and feelings of goodwill.
With a tremendous language barrier they acted without prompting, bribery and without fear of reprisals from terrorists. I believe what I witnessed was humanity in it's truest form. Through their actions alone they seemed to say "we know you are trying. You have shed blood for us and we thank you." When I return to America, I will tell all American civilians that ask: Iraqis are people of honor, compassion and strong family bonds. There is nowhere I would rather be than here.
*David Zadel is a Lieutenant in the 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division in Iraq.