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Ever Wonder what ever happened to the War in Iraq? Did our hero’s come home? You hardly ever hear about it on the evening news any more. Only in the rare cases when there is a homicide attack. It used to be the top story every day. Where did it go? There has to be some sort of “gag order” on the press. I have never heard the United States issue such a “gag order” but I am now convinced there has to be one in place right now. Why else would the press fail to cover the Good News coming out of Iraq?

Take for example, Dave Schmidt. He is one of our American Heroes. Dave just got back from Iraq and was surprised at the lack of reporting the REAL story about the Iraq war. So he has provided it himself:

Soldier: Iraq’s full story not told

Dave Schmidt

Americans aren’t hearing the whole story about life in Iraq and United States involvement there, according to Dave Schmidt, who has talked to anyone who will listen about positive aspects, since his return to Pratt last July.

During a year in Iraq with an Army Reserves unit based in Pittsburg, Schmidt witnessed, and in some cases, was a part of changes that are making life better for Iraqis.

For whatever reason, national media focuses on suicide bombings or crowds of people complaining about the U.S. presence in their country, he said. What is not shown is that once the cameras are turned off, those same people are expressing their gratitude for a sustainable source of power and safe schools for their children.

“We’re doing the right thing,” Schmidt said. “We’re helping but that’s not the type of stories national newswires pick up and send back here.”

While he was deployed, a niece in Wichita sent an e-mail to tell him that instead of getting presents for her birthday, she was going to ask girlfriends coming to a sleepover to bring money to go shopping for school supplies. Schmidt made the necessary arrangements with the “civil affairs folks” and waited for a box to arrive. Five were shipped, full of pens, pencils, crayons, rulers, coloring books — good basic school supplies that can excite a young student here each August. An elementary principal who received the supplies told Schmidt through an interpreter that the collection represented months and months of wages. After saving for supplies, someone would have to go to a larger city to purchase them, and might lose two-thirds through bribery or outright robbery on the way home.

“He had tears in his eyes,” Schmidt recalled.

A British major related to Schmidt a story of his unit’s work in rebuilding as school, which included razing some nearby abandoned houses to expand the playground. At a dedication of the school, an Iraqi father thanked the major for their help and told him the houses had become a safe haven for insurgents, who knew coalition forces wouldn’t fire upon them because of their proximity to the school. Infighting among the insurgents, however, had sometimes resulted in rockets being fired into the schoolyard.

Schmidt has gathered some facts for talks he gives to local civic clubs:

• Forty-seven countries have reestablished embassies in Iraq.

• The Iraqi government employs more than a million Iraqi people.

• The Baghdad Stock Exchange reopened nearly five years ago.

• Contrary to what most people believe, media in Iraq is not controlled by a single state-run source. There are 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations.

• In 2007, Iraq had its first democratic presidential election with two candidates who debated on television.

“We’re used to having an election every four years; it’s a big deal for them,” Schmidt noted. “We’re a young nation; they’re centuries old but just tasting democracy.”

• There are thousands of building projects going on, including schools, public clinics, hospitals, railroad stations, oil facilities, water and electrical systems. Some are being constructed with U.S. help and training in maintaining systems is provided.

• Assistance is being provided for leadership development and establishment of local governments.

• Help is given to improve agriculture. Farming is essentially dryland, but some water may be diverted from nearby canals, Schmidt said. He saw some old tractors — nothing shiny and new — as well as oxen pulling plows.

Giving help but respecting a centuries-old culture in which religion is deeply ingrained requires a delicate balance, Schmidt noted.

“We have to respect their society but help them understand, help them evolve. They’re making strides,” he said, noting that women and girls are being educated and violence is becoming less prevalent — Detroit has more violence now than the country of Iraq.

Schmidt’s job in Iraq was to track the movement of supply convoys, as many as 50-200 trucks a night, and send assistance as needed.

The service in Iraq was his first deployment in 28 years in the Reserves. Army policy will keep him at home at least through July, when he could be recalled. While troops are scheduled to withdraw from Iraq, a greater presence is being called for in Afghanistan. Will his nation require his service again?

“I don’t know,” Schmidt said. “Who’s got the crystal ball?”

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