Saturday, August 11, 2007

©2007 Belo Corp.

Soldier supplies puppets to Iraqi children

Sgt. engineers a handheld goodwill effort

WASHINGTON – The reaction was immediate when Army 1st Sgt. Bruce Reges strode into the classroom in the Baghdad suburb of Baqubah, in the volatile Diyala province.

Army 1st Sgt. Bruce Reges uses puppets to gain the trust of Iraqi children with Peace Through Puppets, an organization founded by his mother, a former puppeteer. At 6 feet 5 and wearing full body armor, Sgt. Reges, 57, looked fearsome to the schoolchildren. Outside, two Stryker armored vehicles blocked the street. A heavily armed security detail was checking out the roof and other classrooms.

Sgt. Reges is assigned to an Army civil affairs unit out of Fort Bragg, N.C., working to reconstruct and support schools, irrigation projects and honey farms in Diyala. The team was visiting the school in May to assess what could be done to help, but the young students were terrified.

"Two of the girls started to cry and escape somehow, and the teacher had to calm them down and tell them that we were there to help them, not to hurt them," Sgt. Reges recalled. "It was emotionally tough for me to see a child so traumatized by U.S. soldiers that they reacted that way."


"I thought, we need some way to let them know we are human, too – fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers," Sgt. Reges said. "So I thought two small puppets in my cargo pocket would be helpful in bridging the gap."

You know, not to sound all sappy, but isn't this in micro what Bush & co were spouting right and left?

Don't scare them, show them our human side and do the best you can to let them know we care.

It's being left up to the individual soldiers and their support groups, while the machine lumbers on, destroying.

The whole story is worth a read, but grab your kleenex.