Thursday, April 10, 2008

Painting Project Brings Soldiers, Iraqi Families Together

Photo: Young Iraqi artists pose in front of their artwork after a day spent painting a T-wall at Forward Operating Base War Eagle in northern Baghdad, March 29, 2008. The children of the village next to the base painted the T-walls that line their route to school. Photo by Army Spc. Joseph Rivera Rebolledo, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multinational Division Baghdad

Soldiers at Forward Operating Base War Eagle here invited a group of Iraqi children to showcase their artistic skills and creativity March 29 by painting the concrete walls used to protect citizens in their neighborhood.

The children live in a village near War Eagle and walk by the "T-walls" daily on their way to school, said Army Capt. Megan Welch, a Multinational Division Baghdad logistics officer with the 4th Infantry Division's 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, adding that the children find the route to be a safe way to get to school.

Though the focus of the painting session was to provide another way to establish rapport with the adult and younger residents of the village, Welch said, it also was a chance for the children to beautify something they see daily.

Welch, a native of La Crescent, Minn., added that it helped the Iraqi children see soldiers not only as armed protectors, but also as people with whom they can interact.

The children painted Iraqi and American flags, palm trees, flowers, hearts and other designs of their imagination to give the T-walls a vivid look. The painting day gave the children a better feeling of how people behind the uniform are, and it shows them soldiers care about them, Welch said.

"The kids who participated had a good time, and for us, it was a good opportunity to interact with the neighborhood kids," said Army Capt. Walter Zurkowsky, a New Hampshire native who serves as executive officer for Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

Welch and her fellow soldiers from the Mountaineer Battalion organized the day and said they hope to host similar events.

"We had a lot of fun with the kids. It was a good, cooperative community-building event, and we look forward to seeing many of these in the future," she said.

(By Army Spc. Joseph Rivera Rebolledo, Special to American Forces Press Service; Army Spc. Joseph Rivera Rebolledo serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)

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