Just a little e-mail I got from a Reserve officer working with the Brits. I got it a while back, but thought it was appropriate for this particular piece of the board: Hi Everyone Happy Groundhog Day! I hope you dont mind another long email but a lot has happened recently and I wanted get the word out. I think it is appropriate I am writing on Groundhog Day as we call everyday here Groundhog Day after the movie where Bill Murray lives the same day over and over again. Groundhog Day has become our joke as every day in Iraq seems to be the same we even played the movie for the first of our weekly Thursday night movie get-togethers. We all meet in a conference room, buy a few pizzas, some sodas, popcorn, etc. and watch a movie. Groundhog Day seemed the obvious choice to start the Thursday night tradition. We do it on Thursday nights because Friday is the Arab week-end and we usually go into work an hour or so later on our day off. Last week was The Blues Brothers I admit it isnt exactly the Cannes Film Festival but, hey, we dont want to be like the French anyway! Good news we found a place to watch the Super Bowl! Since we live on a British military base there is no US Armed Forces Network TV and no American football but we found a base nearby that is used by private contractors (thank you, Halliburton!) and they have US TV shows and a big screen TV. We are so psyched! They will be serving snacks and sodas just like in the US of A. Kick off is at 2:30AM Monday morning! Feel free to get up and join us! Ha ha I wonder if this is the undisclosed location that Dick Chaney is always hiding in Ill let you know if I see him at the game Go PATS!!! Things are going well with training the Iraqi Army units. They are slowly learning and adjusting to a new way to run their army. The cultural issues continue to be a problem as things like timeliness and discipline, which are at the heart of any military organization, are simply not a part of their nature. The cultural differences do make for some interesting situations, though It is a cultural norm for Arab men who are friends to hold hands or link arms while walking together or talking. Well you can imagine MY surprise when I was talking to one of the Iraq Army Officers a few weeks ago and, as we were walking, he started holding my hand needless to say, I nearly died all I could think was Thank God my high school buddies and the guys on Allens Ave cant see me now! to say I was a little shocked is the understatement of the year The other US officers say it is a good thing and shows that they like and respect me but Im still not sure about the entire thing it has happene d a few more times since I am getting used to it but I still give a quick look around to make sure no one I know from home can see me I knew everyone would have to make sacrifices to support the war on terror but I didnt think my part would be holding hands with a 270 pound middle-aged Iraqi guy with bad breath and a 5:00 shadow that looks like a flattened Brillo pad I was able to take a little road trip to Kuwait last week under the guise of meeting with members of the British Military Mission in Kuwait it was a nice break we pulled into the big US base in Doha and headed right for the PX. I am proud to say that at 9:30 AM my breakfast consisted of a burger, fries, and Coke from Hardees talk about the breakfast of champions it put the British breakfasts to shame! We went back around noon but I didnt want to seem like a pig so I passed on the burgers for lunch instead I went to Baskin Robbins for a black and white shake large, of course I was in heaven - I have not had one of those shakes in 4 months! We had a fun day walking around Kuwait City looks like Florida only you hear Arabic instead of Spanish in the background we ate dinner at a steak restaurant and ended up having drinks at the British Embassy. I even saw the Ambassador himself dont worry I was sober and when I left we still had diplomatic relations with Her Majestys government! I have been getting used to the Brit food. It is not as good as the US mess halls but it isnt bad. Bread and Butter pudding has become one of my favorites. I also like the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding although the first time I had it I didnt even know what it was. I saw the name on the menu board so I figured I would try it. I went thru the food line and picked up my roast beef and a pop-over roll but I didnt see the Yorkshire pudding. So I went over to the nearest Brit and asked him where the pudding was. He looked down at my plate and looked back up at me like I was crazy turns out Yorkshire pudding is NOT pudding who knew??? Yorkshire pudding is actually what they call the pop-over roll that was already on my plate - leave it to the Brits, huh? You know me making friends and impressing people all over the globe! I have even got used to the way most of the Brits talk. I can understand most of them although the Scots are still a little tough to understand. Another Brit told me not to worry, he said even they cant understand the Scots! I have a Brit Colonel who is a great boss and he talks like you would expect a British cartoon character to speak he kinda mumbles mumbles some more .pauses and ends every pause with a loud RIGHT! The other Americans on my team just break out laughing because we spend the entire day saying, What, Sir? to him and making him repeat himself. I think it was Churchill who described the English and Americans as a common people divided by a common language he must have known my boss. On a more serious note, Im sure you all heard about the Iraqi elections that were held here earlier this week. I will remember it as one of the most unforgettable sights I have ever seen. There was such a build up to the Election Day and everyone was worried how it would play out. Lets face it, there has not been a lot of good news coming out of Iraq and our friends in the media were certainly painting a picture of impending doom. I spent part of the day in the Ops Center which looks like Mission Control at NASA we had a bunch of monitors and we were tracking news reports on TV and reports from units in the field. They also have a screen called the Incident Board which looks like a big scoreboard and tracks the details of any incidents of violence in the region. We were watching the Incident Board all day expecting it to fill up quickly with reports of violence. But as the day wore on, the board stayed fairly clear. We started looking at each other and wondering if something was wrong. Towards the afternoon, we started getting reports of how well things were going - a 70% turn-out rate and the lack of violence. It was at this point, late afternoon, that we started to actually realize how successful things were going. It was almost like being a Red Sox fan, we kept waiting for something bad to happen and it never did. We talked with people from the field and they told us the stories you have heard about the Iraqis singing and dancing while waiting in the election lines. It went better than we ever expected. By evening we realized that we were witnessing something historical the Iraqi people had overwhelmingly chosen to take charge of their country. I have never considered rock stars or baseball players to be heroes but I will be adding the sight of these Iraqi people, proudly defying terrorism by waving their purple finger in the air, to my image of what a true hero looks like. I wish I had been home to see Dan Rather and his media friends try to explain this one the American people Unfortunately, the price for peace and democracy in Iraq has been, and will continue to be, a steep one. It has been paid for with the lives of over 1,400 American and 88 British men and women. We were reminded of that in the early evening on Election Day when reports that a British plane had been lost started to come in. Being in the Brit HQ made it worse because they were frantically trying to verify the reports and determine the details. The news of the crash dampened our spirits somewhat although the success of the election was clear. I am reminded that after one of the first British victories early in WWII, church bells rang out and the British people started to celebrate. Winston Churchill, as only he could in his eloquent way, cautioned the people that there was still a long way to go to ultimate victory his words were But this is not the end it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. I think those words describe the current situation in Iraq at this point in time. There is still a long way to go but maybe, just maybe, we have turned a corner and left the violent beginning behind. It seems as though the Iraqi people have done their part by their overwhelming support of democracy on Election Day. I would like to share one more personal story with you. On the day after the election we joined with the Iraq Army unit that we train. We met them as they came onto the base and we shook hands and congratulated them for the Election Day success of their country. They also thanked us and all of America for giving them the opportunity to take their country back. I shook hands with each of them and asked them to show me his hand. I cant begin to tell you how moving it was to see these soldiers, who have become my friends, proudly holding up their forefingers to show me the famous purple ink. Not only did they defy the cowardly insurgents by voting but they didnt wash the ink off because they wanted to show everyone what they had done. Since having the ink on your hand is a virtual death sentence if you are caught by the terrorists, these people showed incredible bravery by continuing to wear the ink as a true purple badge of courage. It was quite a scene that I was proud to be associated with and will never forget. Funny how we came to Iraq to teach them about the meaning of democracy yet US soldiers here will admit they have learned a few things about democracy from the courage of the Iraqi people. I guess learning the true meaning of democracy is a two-way street. I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has sent cards, letters, and packages to me. I appreciate all the goodies although I am trying to maintain my boyish figure! Many of you have generously asked what they could send me and I would like to suggest school supplies or small toys be a part of your package if possible. We have visited and been supporting some of the local Iraqi schools and the conditions are appalling - one school had 5 teachers for over 400 students. Basic supplies such as pens, paper, crayons, markers, etc. or small toys would be most welcome. I will try to get some pictures of the kids to pass along to you seeing them smile over our small gifts is a wonderful sight and a reminder that even though we are not perfect, the American ideal of freedom still represents hope to millions of people around theworld. Even though the news from Iraq is not always good, the troops here truly appreciate the continued support of the American people. We join you in hoping our cause is finally headed in a positive direction and will soon result in a free Iraqi state and we pray it will indeed be the beginning of a new morning in Iraq. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers I look forward to seeing, and thanking, everyone later THIS year! I left off the names to protect the innocent!