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Posted on Jun 17, 2007 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Red Bulls in Iraq – Pt. 8: A Trip to Baghdad: Pt 3

By Cpt. Fernando A Franco

The ramp leading to the monument extended for about a hundred meters. Several workers were putting in a new floor. They were friendly and smiled at us, but I couldn’t stop wondering if any of them were part of the terrorists who have done so much damage to Iraq.  The top of the ramp opened to a central structure that look like a piece of modern art — a cubic piece of metal and glass that represents the blood of Iraqi soldiers and the seven levels of the Muslim heaven.  It really catches your attention in terms of its spiritual significance for the Iraqis.

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Monument under the shield

The shield provided us with nice shade from the midday sun (which really makes you sweat under body armor!). The artist’s conception of the shield being held by a fallen ancient Iraqi warrior made us think about the link that we as soldiers have with the unknown soldiers represented at this monument.

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Just a few feet away was the museum entrance. It was two stories deep and there were two wide stairs cases leading to it. It was really dark since the electrical repairs have not been completed and it was deprived of any displays. Once my eyes were accustomed to the darkness, I could see the place was designed to hold several display cases a central structure that resembled a beam of light projected skyward. It was the way to remember the souls of the Iraqi soldiers. I spent several minutes here, reflecting on how the soldiers honored here were simply human beings like you and me, with families, lives and dreams, and that now they existed only in the memories of their loved ones.

On my way out of the museum and in the darkness of the display area, I saw a soldier standing in front of me. I initially thought he was one of my group but after saying hello and getting no response, I tried to move along. But each time I moved, the soldier did to, as if he were trying to intercept me. I started to freak out just a little bit when I realized it was my own reflection on a massive glass door in front of me. I couldn’t stop laughing as I left the museum and returned to daylight.

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Another monument next to the shield

We gathered the group and headed to the assembly area. While walking back, I noticed two Iraqi civilians planting a vegetable garden in the grassy zone between the parking areas. It just hit me how lucky I am to live in the U.S., where I can plant vegetables in my backyard as a hobby. These two young Iraqis were using a public parking lot to grow vegetables as a means of survival.

The helicopter ride back to my base was not different than the one in the morning except that the sun was starting to set. I saw the same muddy pools and open channels of black water in the outskirts of Baghdad, and I again saw kids playing in that waste water. My only hope is that all the time and resources we have invested in Iraq will actually bring prosperity to these people and that one day these children might cool down on a hot summer day by swimming in a clean pool.

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