Medicine Soldier

A View from Iraq


I Am Thankful for...

(Written 11.24.2005, posted 12.12.2005)

Most people would not believe the dinning accommodations we have here. Most of the camps host contract dining facilities with third country (non-Iraqi) nationals cooking and serving the food, very much like a large college dining hall with short order, main line, buffet, salad bar, and desert bar. Our camp is still using cooks in a trailer. During the summer months the drains to the air conditioners, when they were working, just poured the condensate on the dusty concrete floor. The KPs (kitchen police) would do a good job washing off the vinyl tables and then pick the chairs off the dirty floor and put them on the tables.

However, on Thanksgiving, we had nice table cloths, a full meal with desserts, and even egg nog. Apple pie never tasted soo good. Although I was sad not to be with my extended family for the first time since I can remember, it felt good to sit down with my new extended family and express the bonds we share from our experiences this year. Growing up in New England, Thanksgiving has been a holiday stereotypically depicted by posters of Pilgrims and Indians coming together for a pre-winter feast. I was curious to see how the Mississippi Brigade would display their decorations even in Iraq.

We are supposed to be sensitive towards our Muslim counterparts, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to exchange traditions or stories with the interpreters, considering they had recently finished Ramadan. Our spread looked more like the typical cornucopia with no indications of a religious nature except a few paper dolls in puritan dress. The locals did not seem to be bothered by our secular representation of the American Indian tradition.

I have been fortunate enough to have been involved in the American Indian community for over 14 years. My friend and mentor from South Dakota, a few friends, and I usually get together at the hospital he works at to explain what a traditional Thanksgiving or "wopila" is about. It is more than an annual tradition to gather and eat. In fact, it is done after weddings, funerals, births, sweat lodges, namings, significant events, and on the harvest moon.

In any event, I took some time to give thanks in my own way and I am thankful for:

  • the new friends I have made
  • the lessons I have learned
  • being able to hear children laugh and play despite the poverty and being surrounded by physical and human waste
  • the support of the Iraqi Police, Army, and even most of the Iraqi people the support of friends and family at home
  • coming home in one piece
  • living in a country where we can vote without having to pass through checkpoints manned with machine guns

posted by Scott | 22:00 Baghdad time | © 11.24.2005
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