Sunday, May 21, 2006


For soldiers, gratitude and praise from an Iraqi mayor


COLORADO SPRINGS

An Iraqi mayor stood before troops lined up on the lawn at Fort Carson on Friday morning and said only two words in English.
But those two words brought the crowd to its feet.

"Thank you."

It was a telling gesture from Tal Afar Mayor Najim Al Jibouri, who spoke for about 20 minutes in his native tongue praising the 3rd Armored Cavalry for saving his city from certain ruin.

It was his first trip to the United States, arriving via Washington, D.C., then coming to Colorado Springs with his wife and son.

The mayor was invited as a part of a welcoming ceremony at Fort Carson for those who had just finished another tour in Iraq.

Al Jibouri, dressed in a black suit with a lavender tie, said he was glad to be back among them.

"Are you truly my friends?" he asked through a translator. "Yes. I walk a happier man because you are my friends. You are the world to me. I smell the sweet perfume that emanates from your flower of your strength, honor and greatness in every corner of Tal Afar. The nightmares of terror fled when the lion of your bravery entered our city."

Last year, the 3rd ACR was credited with securing the city of Tal Afar and largely ridding it of insurgents. The mayor singled out Col. H.R. McMaster, whom he called "a wise leader."

The mayor patted his hand on his heart and made the peace sign as a crowd of soldiers and their families gave him a standing ovation.

Al Jibouri proved to be a bit of a celebrity after the ceremony, which featured a display of charging horses and the cannon salute. People and press flocked around him, thanking him for coming and asking to have their photos taken with him.

Stephanie Gault, whose husband, Dana Gault, had just returned from his second tour in Iraq, settled for a picture with Al Jibouri's son, Omar, when it became apparent she wouldn't be able to cut through the crowd to get to the mayor.

"He's a great man," she said.

Maj. Gen. James Simmons praised the mayor as well, saying history would look favorably upon his role in supporting a democratic mission in Iraq. McMaster and Al Jibouri hugged, clasped their hands together and raised their fists in the air.

The mayor said afterward through a translator that he worried about fading support for the war in Iraq and urged Americans to remember what it was like before U.S. forces arrived.

"One year ago today, not even a bird used to be inside the city of Tal Afar because of all the shooting that happened continuously," he said. "All of the schools were closed and all the government facilities were closed completely. Killing and murdering was allowed - even of the children."

He said mistakes have been made - he did not specify them - but Al Jibouri said he believed troops might need to stay for another two to three years. He said there is still a lot of work to do.

That's what 1st Lt. Nate Garner thought.

Back from his first tour in Iraq, he said the sagging support for the war didn't bother him much because he saw a lot of progress in the country. Stationed in Baghdad, he said the improvised explosive devices along the roadsides seemed more hurried and crude and ineffective.

More than 2,450 U.S. military personnel have been killed since the war started in 2003.

"We have a job to do over there and we're doing it," Garner said.

..wonder where the msm has been on this bit of news..simple..

A W O L