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Iraqi Kids Day brings it all into perspective

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Iraqi Kids Day at Joint Base Balad started with U.S. servicemembers from the Air Force, Army and Navy forming a receiving line fit for a celebrity, welcoming about 200 children from local villages.

They all had big smiles on their faces and were shaking every body's hands, they all were so happy to see us, but probably did not notice how big the smiles got on our faces and how happy we were.

I don't know the stories of all the volunteers, but I do know that other than a few month-long TDYs, this is my first time being away from my 19-month-old daughter this long. So when I found out that kids were going to be on JBB, I jumped at the opportunity.

After all the kids had entered, the volunteers had to find a child to mentor for the day. I saw a little girl, Taqwa, who did not have a mentor so I went to her and she immediately grabbed my hand and led me to the coloring table. This continued as we visited the face painting, flower making and jewelry making tables. I thought it was cute that at each table we visited, she would squeeze my hand harder indicating that this is what she wanted to do.

We did not speak the same language, but we understood each other. My little girl was like most children, she wanted to eat popcorn and had two desserts rather than eat the main food and she tried on several pairs of flip-flops before finding the right ones. She reminded me of myself because I was shy like her when I was little. Also similar to me, she did not want to play outside, she wanted to do girly things like make hair decorations and rings for all of her fingers.

After we had done all the activities she wanted to do for the day, she led me to a couch where she just wanted to sit with me. So we talked a little and I showed her pictures of my daughter and she told me about her family.

When the day came to an end, I was sad because we had formed a bond and now she had to leave. Before she left, she said, "I love you" and she gave me a kiss on the cheek and a big hug. Being deployed I miss all the "mommy" things I normally would do with my daughter, so I enjoyed the opportunity to be a mom, even if it was just a short time.

Although I was sad that she had to leave, I know that she would leave with good feelings about me, other military members and Americans.

Spending the day with Taqwa made me realize that American and Iraqi cultures have many similarities. She also helped me remember why we are here in Iraq and doing the things we are doing.