/*********************************************** * Chrome CSS Drop Down Menu- (c) Dynamic Drive DHTML code library (www.dynamicdrive.com) * This notice MUST stay intact for legal use * Visit Dynamic Drive at http://www.dynamicdrive.com/ for full source code ***********************************************/
History
Minnesota National Guard
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

Download photos
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Mahdi is still a playful child, but since his injury he is more skittish, withdrawn, shy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





Articles archive

In The News archive

Media Advisory archive

Latest News

Operation Future Warrior, rain or shine

Posted: 2017-05-24  01:12 PM
Operation Future Warrior More than 900 recruits from the Minnesota National Guard came to Camp Ripley Friday through Sunday for Operation Future Warrior.

Young men and women who volunteered to join the Minnesota Army National Guard got to experience a small taste of basic training and military training during the three-day event.

"The intent of Operation Future Warrior is removing the mystery of the training recruits will experience when attending Basic Combat and Advance Individualized Training," said Lt. Col. Eduardo Suarez, recruiting and retention battalion commander.



St. Paul-based Combat Aviation Brigade welcomes new senior enlisted leader

Posted: 2017-05-23  08:03 AM
Hellkamp ARDEN HILLS, Minn. - The Minnesota National Guard's 34th Combat Aviation Brigade welcomed a new senior enlisted leader during a change of responsibility ceremony, May 21, 2017, at the Arden Hills Army Training Site.

Command Sgt. Maj. Mitchell Hellkamp assumed duties as the unit's senior noncommissioned officer (NCO) from Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Cunnien, who served in the position for the past two years and will be retiring from the military later this year.

"Command Sgt. Maj. Cunnien is one of the finest leaders that I have worked with in my career," said Col. Shawn Manke, commander of the 34th CAB. "He sets the example for all noncommissioned officers and Soldiers to emulate. He is a true professional, as a visible leader and teacher for the Soldiers of the combat aviation brigade. We're grateful for his many years of service, and we wish him well as he closes out his military career and enters the next chapter in his life."



Families recognized for sacrifices during Guard deployment

Posted: 2017-05-22  10:57 AM
Welcome Home ST. CLOUD, Minn. - Soldiers of B Co., 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion were welcomed home May 20, 2017, at the River's Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota. During the ceremony, families were recognized for their sacrifices during the year-long deployment.

"I often tell Soldiers and truly believe that as hard as our jobs are at times, our families have the harder job at home," said Lt. Col. Kevin O'Brien, commander of the 2-147 Assault Helicopter Battalion. "Because Army family members have a unique burden that many of their friends and families cannot understand, they form family readiness groups, or FRGs, to share information and provide support to one another."

The company's FRG leader, Rhiannon Knutson, wife of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Tom Knutson, was in constant contact with the unit's families and went above and beyond what is normally expected of FRG leaders, said the unit's readiness non-commissioned officer, Sgt. 1st Class Mark Wood.



Camp Ripley's Training Support Unit keeps the base running

Posted: 2017-05-16  12:41 PM
Camp Ripley CAMP RIPLEY, Minn. - The Camp Ripley Training Support Unit is designated to the care, upkeep and assistance to the installation and those utilizing the facility.

"The Training Support Unit's (TSU) primary focus is to support unit training requirements and ensure smooth operations here on Camp Ripley and the Arden Hills Army Training Site in the metro," said Sgt. 1st Class Terry Clabo, Training Support Unit Readiness NCO.

Camp Ripley features numerous ranges and state-of-the-art training facilities to support military, law enforcement, first responder and inter-agency partner training requirements. The installation is structured to have a full complement of automated small arms and large caliber weapon ranges as well as several specialized training facilities.



Article archive
 
top