Thanks to John (a ret. USAFR Officer) for sending me this email about yesterday's elections from his daughter, an AF Photographer, in Sadr City, Iraq.
Hello all! Many different accounts of what happened today here in Iraq. CNN said we were thwarted by bombers, FOX said it was a unrivalled success, and some say variations of these two. However it was, I wanted to give you my view of what happened here in Sadr City, Iraq
I woke up ridiculously early to go out with the BRT team to document the polling sites around Sadr City and the Iraqi National Guardsmen (ING), the Iraqi Highway Patrolmen (IHP), and others who were securing them. Due to lousy lighting and the fact that no one else in Iraq seemed to be awake as early as me, my experience and footage was lackluster. But, happy to have done something with the elections, I edited my footage, turned it in, and ate a very large breakfast.
My partner out here <...> went back to bed as I headed to the 1st Brigade Headquarters to talk with the Major in charge of us. Without warning the commander of the brigade headed out into the city and I was swept along in the last remaining seat.
It was late morning and our first trip was to a polling site where a suicide bomber had blown himself and two IHP into pieces (literally). I videotaped as they put the pieces into bags to be carried off. I think this was, without a doubt, the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. But I handled it like a troop- separating myself from the gruesome scene by way of my camera lens.
As they carted the men's body bags away, Iraqi people filed back in to continue voting. How about that?
For the next five hours the Colonel toured many neighborhoods and polling areas throughout Sadr City. And Sadr City was an unbelievable site. Hundreds of people lined the streets and congregated outdoors. Children, teenage boys, and men played dozens of soccer games in the grass between the streets. Children swarmed me and the other troops chanting "Good, Good Mistah (the nickname they call us)! Good, Good Mistah!" Men and Women held their blue fingers high with pride and thankfulness so that I could get pictures of them. One man came up to my camera, held his blue finger up and shouted, “Bush Good! Bush Good!" They played music and danced. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Soldiers with me smiled and shook their heads in disbelief telling me that this was the same street they'd traveled down 8 months ago when they had their bloodiest and costliest battle. It was the route you could not go down for many months without being ambushed with RPGs and towing back at least one tank or Bradley. These soldiers leave in a couple of weeks and I think the best thing they could have experienced-proof: their job well done.
I returned this evening euphoric, exhausted, and hungry again. The Command Sergeant Major riding with us gave me his coin (which apparently he only gives out when his guys reenlist) and told me I had bragging rights. I was the only female to have gone that far into Sadr City and that I had a great attitude. I didn’t think I was that brave riding a convoy into a group of happy, joyous people and there was no where else I would have rather been today, but I said thanks and accepted the coin. But I think when I come home I'll brag just the same.
I hope your day was half as good as mine!
Love and miss you all. Keep in Touch!