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Shaun Alan Jakob Headshot

A Single Person Out of Thousands in the Iraqi Countryside

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Before I begin with these writings I feel some words of explanation are necessary in order to provide some background as well as make my intentions, or lack thereof, known. I am a Soldier in an Infantry company of the US Army currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. To put it simply, this place often times sucks. That being said the soldiers of my company do not walk around miserable all of the time. Despite everything else there is almost always something, at least from my prospective, that happens each day to make me smile or laugh. Some moment in which I can forget about the heat, the time away from my wife and family, the endlessly busy schedule of patrols and paperwork. Each and every day I and the other soldiers of my company interact with the locals who live near us, and I truly do mean interact, as there is nothing one sided about it. We talk and listen to each other, try our best to understand the other's concerns, and while things are far from perfect, they are also far from dismal.

Also, please bear in mind that I am a single person out of hundreds of thousands who has been here. Anything written is only from my perspective, as everyone who has been here has had a different experience and therefore a different perspective on things. I am only one soldier at a small combat outpost in the primarily agricultural Iraqi countryside.

I have no political intentions. There are already more than enough opinions on this war that I don't feel the need to add another forum, though I will be the first to admit that there are many events which occur beyond those humorous ones which I choose to write about. However, concentrating on the miserable and unpleasant would obviously make for a long 15 months. Additionally, it is not the place of a soldier to make comments either way on the decisions of those who direct us. That being said I would ask any readers not to feel compelled to tell me your political thoughts, because quite frankly the majority of Americans with such lofty opinions of any persuasion are little more than armchair quarterbacks of the most offending degree.

With the above having been said, I begin now not with a moment per se but more of an observation made over the course of the last several months that makes me smile and wonder. In the United States, or the Real World as we call it, race, creed, and ethnicity are often times matters of great contention. The same thing could be said of Iraq among Iraqis, though sectarian violence in my particular area is low. But to the Iraqis that we deal with, there is no race or creed among Americans. We are our own ethnicity. It kind of harkens back to the days of elementary school when we were taught to be proud of being American and how our diversity is what makes us a great country, lessons that are forgotten or become trite with age. Among the locals we know, the only distinction made about different types of Americans is Army or Marine Corps (Iraqis much prefer the Army). In my company there are Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Atheists, Whites, Blacks, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, dare I say even a couple of Canadians, and I'm sure I missed a couple of people in there. But to those we deal with we are all simply American Soldiers. A couple of weeks ago we were having dinner at the house of a local national we know very well and I asked him, through an interpreter of course, if Iraqi's made distinctions among Americans based on their race. After his reply my interpreter (or "terp") began laughing and told me that his reply was only that American skin is camouflage colored, meaning that the uniform identifies us as American, and no other distinction is needed or made.