| Saving Mahdi: Soldiers from COB Basra work to help injured Iraqi boy
COB BASRA, Iraq – The four-year old boy sits in his father’s lap and eats from a bowl of Froot Loops It is the first time he has ever eaten Froot Loops, or any kind of cereal for that matter
His father whispers something in his ear, and the normally timid boy breaks into an impish grin “I told him I’m going to get him a bicycle,” the father said
It’s warm day, and a fly buzzes around the boy, eventually nestling into the grisly open hole where the boy’s right eye once was
The boy’s name is Mahdi He is the victim of an insurgent mortar attack that destroyed his home and injured his grandmother, his aunt and his cousin
As a result of that attack, his right eye is gone, and he has shrapnel in his back, in his chest and in his brain Without corrective action, there is a chance that the shrapnel and bone fragments lodged in his brain will eventually kill him
Since the July 30 attack that changed their lives forever, Mahdi and his father, Saleh, have been coming to the gate at Contingency Operating Base Basra almost every Monday morning, searching for someone who can help
“They tell me to come here,” Saleh said “And the American Soldier, they gonna give you the help”
Saleh said he still remembers the night that the mortar came down, the explosion and the burning and the sight of neighbors pulling his family out of the burning house
“I know my son is hurt,” he said “They take him to the hospital He was very bad The doctor said, ‘if your son is still like this, he’s going to be paralyzed’ I go to a lot of doctors, and I didn’t get any right answer so I come to here”
Forensic reports from the hospital in Basrah indicate that Madhi showed a distorted orientation, unstable vital signs and was vulnerable for complications The doctors treated Madhi to the best of their abilities, but they could not save his right eye, and they could not remove the shrapnel in his brain
Mahdi is still a playful child, but since his injury he is more skittish, withdrawn, shy
“He was good, he never needed anything, but then this incident happened to him,” Saleh said “He now can’t sleep in the night He feels pain every day”
And so Saleh and Mahdi wait by the gates of COB Basra, hoping that someone inside can help them
“I just want the help,” said Saleh “If they can send him to a hospital or they can send him some money I know they’re going to help”
The gate where Mahdi and his father wait is a busy one Many local Iraqis, some of whom have come a great distance, sit and wait in the heat until the Soldiers of the 34th Military Police Company, who provide security, can let them in While many pass through the gate, Mahdi, in particular, has captured the hearts of the Red Bull MPs
One of the MP’s, a burly old guy who asked not to be named, hands Mahdi a stuffed animal
“He’s a cute little boy, very shy,” the MP said “He can walk around but he’s very shy around the Soldiers He doesn’t smile; he doesn’t really look at you He hides behind his father a lot But when you get him to sit in your lap to look at his wounds, the kid’s just absolutely adorable”
The MPs gathered what food they could find for Mahdi and his father: Froot Loops, bread and Gatrorade The burly, in particular, has made it a personal mission to get word of Mahdi’s condition to everyone he knows
He seeks out church groups, fellow Soldiers, medics and officials, looking for assistance, any kind of assistance, for Madhi
“I just want to make it aware that this child needs help,” he said
Soon, help comes from outside Every week as Saleh has been telling his story through interpreters at the gate, the local national workers waiting to get into the base have been listening
“After hearing this story and seeing this child for themselves, they’ve actually started a collection drive, where they’ve been raising money on their own,” said the anonymous MP “So far, we’re up to 700,000 dinar, which is equivalent to about 900 dollars that these locals, who made very little money themselves, have donated to give to his child”
“One of the American Soldiers showed up here with pictures on his camera, and we looked at those pictures,” said one local contractor “We just want to help First of all, he is a son of our country We should help him because he is from our country”
Finally, after two months, there came a breakthrough Through the burly old MP’s efforts, a civil affairs operator with the Provincial Reconstruction Team had overheard Mahdi’s story and wanted to help
After contacting the MP, Staff Sgt Alexis Feliciano of the 308th Civil Affairs Brigade, cleared the matter though the PRT, who cleared it through the 17th Fires Brigade, who cleared it with the 34th Inf Div Three days later, Mahdi was brought in for an evaluation, said Feliciano
“They gave him soccer balls and candy at the hospital, and he was just like a normal boy,” Feliciano said
Over the coming weeks, Mahdi would receive more gifts: clothes, pizza, and even a little wooden bicycle
Most importantly, Mahdi received a prognosis
“What we did was we hooked up with the [non-governmental organization] Mercy Corps,” said Maj Diane GreenPope, Basrah PRT health advisor and Military Support Element team leader “Mercy Corps is currently in the process of getting passports, visa, transportation issues squared away so that the little fella could travel to, potentially, Germany”
GreenPope said that once they receive paperwork from the Basrah hospital where Mahdi was originally treated, Mercy Corps, could send Madhi to a pediatric hospital in Germany, where he could receive a reconstruction of his eye socket, a protective prosthesis and protective glass to protect his remaining eye
“You never promise anything,” said GreenPope, a nurse in the civilian world, “but we will definitely, definitely do every thing we can”
“He’s an innocent He’s an innocent child caught in a war that he’s no part of,” said GreenPope, her hands clutched close to her chest, “and if we can make it better for him, I’m all for that”
Throughout this whole ordeal, Saleh had remained persistent, patient, hopeful, and once he knew that his son was going to be helped, Saleh was thankful, Feliciano recalls, thankful “to the point that there were tears coming out of his eyes”
Saleh was so thankful that he came back to the gates one week specifically to thank the Soldiers who had helped him – the MPs, Feliciano and GreenPope and the PRT, and all the other Soldiers and civilians from all over the base
A little boy, his little boy, was going to be helped, and after weeks of gloom and worry, Saleh’s world, so struck from its axis, had finally regained a little bit of its former stability and brightness
“He said,” the anonymous MP recalled, “’for the first time, I can see hope again”
By Spc J Princeville Lawrence
34th Red Bull Infantry Division PAO
19 Jan 2010
Camp Ripley strikes first before wildfire season
Posted: 2017-03-24 10:19 AM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - Every spring Camp Ripley begins its annual controlled burn program to help reduce the risk of wildfire during training.
"Usually the burns are completed every spring before the summer annual training season begins," said Tim Notch, training area coordinator on Camp Ripley. "However, the warmer weather conditions provide a nice opportunity for preventative burns earlier this season."
As in years past Camp Ripley will conduct controlled burns on approximately 13,000 acres of the 53,000-acre military reservation. The burns are done in coordination with the staffs of the Camp Ripley Department of Public Works and the Camp Ripley Environmental Department along with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Minnesota Guardsman earns recognition through Leads 2 Enlistment program
Posted: 2017-03-23 09:46 AM
DULUTH, Minn. - Pfc. Trevor Nelson received the Minnesota Distinguished Recruiting Ribbon and a Minnesota Recruiting and Retention Battalion medallion for excellence from Command Sgt. Maj. Curtis Serbus, March 18, 2017, at the Duluth Armory. Nelson earned these awards as part of the online referral system, Leads 2 Enlistment for referring four friends who have joined the Minnesota National Guard.
"I talked to some buddies in my school about the Guard. They liked the benefits, so I put their info in the app and let my recruiter take over." said Nelson. "I thought it would be fun to serve with friends and help them figure out their path in life."
Nelson is currently a senior at Cloquet Senior High School and assigned to the Recruit Sustainment Program in Duluth. He attended basic training at Fort Benning in the summer of 2016 with follow-on training in the summer of 2017 to become an infantryman.
Litchfield and Local Veteran Honor Gen. John Vessey at Armory Open House
Posted: 2017-03-10 08:50 AM
LITCHFIELD, Minn. -Bruce Cottington, a Navy veteran of WWII and Korea, donated a bronze bust of Gen. John W. Vessey, Jr. to the Litchfield National Guard unit during the armory's public open house event March 4. Cottington, a Litchfield resident, commands the Minnesota Chapter of the Veterans of Underage Military Service. VUMS members enlisted in the military prior to the minimum age requirement in order to serve their country during WWII. Cottington received the bust from Vessey, a fellow VUMS member. Both enlisted in the military at the age of 16.
The highlight of the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion open house was the unveiling of the sculpture. The unit was very supportive when Cottington proposed donating the sculpture. The Litchfield community has always been very supportive of the National Guard over the years, so the open house was a chance to say 'thanks' to their neighbors. "This was a great opportunity to honor Bruce and to honor Gen. Vessey," said B Co., 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion Commander, Capt. Seth Goreham. Bravo Company also has a tight relationship with the local American Legion and VFW. Many Litchfield citizens are former members of Bravo Company, or the unit's predecessors A Co, 682nd Engineer Battalion, and the 849th Mobility Augmentation Company.
Camp Ripley welcomes new command sergeant major
Posted: 2017-03-08 03:29 PM
CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The garrison command team of Camp Ripley, family, friends and colleagues from the Minnesota National Guard attended a Change of Responsibility ceremony between Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Worden and Command Sgt. Maj. Matt Erickson, March 5, 2017, at Camp Ripley.
The ceremony was an official "passing of the sword" from one senior noncommissioned officer to the next and assumption of the duties and responsibilities that go along with the position of Garrison Command Sergeant Major.
As with many military ceremonies those in attendance welcomed Erickson as a new member of the team and bid farewell, recognized and thanked Worden for his service.