November 27th, 2007 16:16 EST
Paratrooper's Family Gives School Supplies to Iraqi Girls
BALAD-RUZ " The note read, The school supplies that we are giving you today are from the family of a Soldier who died in Iraq, who loved the children of Iraq. His name is Specialist Michael Rodriguez. "
The speaker is Capt. James Goethals, a Civil-Military Affairs officer stationed in Eastern DiyalaProvince. The audience is a crowd of almost (100) young girls at the Dur-Mandali Primary School for Girls in the city of Balad-Ruz.
Spc. Rodriguez was assigned to 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. He was killed in action in April, when multiple suicide bombers driving explosives-laden vehicles attacked his unit`s base in As-Sadah. He had written home telling his family about how much affection he had for the children he saw on patrol, and so his family turned their grief to a positive end, collecting school supplies for Iraqi children.
Capt. Goethals took over the mission of delivering the school supplies when Spc. Rodriguez`s unit rotated home this past October. He was accompanied by Capt. Tony Keller from 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, the Mayor of Ballad Ruz, Mohammed Rouf Hussein and the Superintendent of Schools, Morat Kadum.
Following the presentation of the school supplies, Capt. Keller, Mayor Hussein and Superintendent Kadum spoke to the school teachers, thanking them for their service to the community and emphasizing the importance of an education, both for these children and the nation of Iraq.
Once the presentation was over, the children transitioned from the well-behaved and orderly formation to a sight similar to an American elementary school without their teachers in close attendance: running, laughing and staring in curious wonderment at the American Soldiers who accompanied the delivery. The Soldiers walked in to several classrooms, snapping pictures with the children and communicating in Pidgin English.
The lasting message of the day was communicated by Capt. Keller just before going into the meeting with the teachers, mayor and superintendent: I want to thank all of you young ladies here today for going to school. You guys are the future of Iraq. Don`t let anyone stop you from getting an education. Always remember Specialist Rodriguez. "
(Story by 1st Lt. Scott Marler, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs)