Christmas in Samarra

Samarra Iraq on Patrol

A family friend is serving in Iraq, he is engaged in the hazardous day-to-day work of restoring basic security for the Iraqi people. I have no idea if this is having an impact on the safety of Iraqi citizens or the occupation forces, but I sincerely hope so.

It’s one thing to deal with the war in the abstract, and quite another to stand in your kitchen and speak with a mother about her son’s deployment in harm’s way.

His patrol spends most of its time “in the field”, and the conditions do not sound like something most of us coddled Americans would be able to tolerate for more than a few hours, let alone weeks. He’s passed along a request for some basic toiletries that are often sold out at the PX, as well as some special requests. It seems particularly galling to me that, three years into this war, and with repeated media stories on shortages in body armor and other military essentials, the wealthiest nation on earth is incapable of maintaining adequate supplies of soap and lip balm for its soldiers on top of everything else.

The chances we leave Iraq better than we found it seem impossbily dim at the moment, but as far as I can tell, the morale of US soldiers and their belief in the mission remains high. I hope you will consider making a small donation or writing a letter to brighten the day of a soldier serving in a hostile and unfamiliar environment. If you contact me, I can provide you the address and names of the men serving in the patrol of our family friend. Otherwise, you can visit Operation Mail From Home. Scroll down to the bottom of the list to see the most recent requests from US soldiers in Iraq.

PS – I am not interested in a discussion of the conflict’s merits. If you are incapable of separating the desire to help your neighbor, or your neighbor’s neighbor, from your feelings about the attendant external forces, then please click along.

Here is the request for items we received:

  • Toiletries: toothbrushes (apparently Army-issue is not so soft), soap, lotion, shampoo, deodorant (small hotel size is perfect)
  • Small boxes of sandwich bags to hold toiletries
  • Quart and gallon-size ziploc bags to hold other things (and keep out the sand)
  • Liquid hand cleaner
  • Small packs of tissues
  • Lip balm or Carmex
  • Foot cream for athlete’s feet (they live in their boots)
  • Small packages of baby wipes that can fit in their pockets
  • Packages of AA or AAA batteries
  • Candy bars (til March, then I think it gets too hot), gum, mints, etc.
  • Granola bars, small boxes of raisins, small cans of tuna, etc.
  • Magazines: Maxim, etc. (for the Privates); Mens Journal, Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, The Economist (for the officers)
  • Special: DVDs
  • Really extra special: Cigars (for the end of a mission)
  • update: Deflated soccer balls – very popular with iraqi children

Update: Note to self, test contact form. Contact page is now working.

About Jonah

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5 thoughts on “Christmas in Samarra

  1. Another item mentioned was deflated soccer balls, that can then be handed out to local children. Apparently the children talk to the soldiers about three things: money, chocolate and soccer.

  2. Jonah –

    What a great post! As a Vietnam era war protestor, as well as a current war protestor, I am glad to see that those of us who oppose this war are not, in general, making the same mistakes my generation made when young of villifying those who served. Your comments are well written, to the point and important. I’m out buying a birthday gift for an 8 year old friend this weekend and will pick up some of the supplies you mention. I’ll contact you to get soldier information.

    THank you for YOUR service in posting this. You make a difference.


  3. Jonah,

    Soldiers have been asking for extra things when they are deployed – in wartime or not. Go to any military base and you’ll see plenty of shops off post selling what the soldiers, sailors and airmen can’t get on post. It’s just a greater need that these guys are in Iraq – and the off post shopping isn’t exactly available.

    That being said, it’s very cool that you want to help out.

  4. Just for the record, I served in Iraq with the Marine Corps in 2005. We had everything we needed: body armor, more gator dry mix than you could believe.enough baby wipes to fill a room from floor to ceiling and care packages out the wazoo.

    Its not the militaries job to provide toiletries…you are given ample opportunity to buy things at the PX. Granted the PX doesnt carry everything…if I remember correctly Wal-Mart wanted to set up some mini stores over there, Im sure they could offer a better selection than the PX.

    Note: I was at a very forward base and in the field everyday as well.

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