News: Project Iraqi Kids makes its way to Iraq
Story by Sgt. Natalie Rostek
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq –American Legion Post 256 members from Tennessee are supporting the war effort by raising money to purchase school supplies to be distributed to children in Iraq.
The effort, called "Project Iraqi Kids," generates funds to buy school supplies to be shipped to U.S. units in Iraq. Elements of the 1st Cavalry Division and the 3rd Infantry Division will be distributing supplies in late June.
The idea for the project came when a formerd Delta Company, 278th Tennessee Army National Guard commander returned from Iraq in February 2006 and spoke to American Legion Post 256 members and the Tellico Village Retired Military Club members about the need to reach out to Iraqi children, according to retired Col. Dick Kolasheski, currently serving as the service officer of the American Legion Post 256.
The ability to reach out to the Iraqi kids and show them the true face of America will do much to determine the success or failure of the mission and the countless sacrifices the Iraqis are making, the company commander said to the American Legion when he returned.
This is the same view that has been reinforced to the service men and women currently in Iraq, Kolasheski said. Kolasheski's son, Lt. Col. John Kolasheski, with 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, is currently serving in Iraqi in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom V.
"It is a valuable tool to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi (people,)" Dick Kolasheski said. "Our contacts with individuals who have served or are serving indicate that kids can be a key to opening doors."
Since its inception, a number of Tennessee's Tellico Village and Rarity Bay area churches and organizations along with contributions from Loudon and Monroe Counties businesses almost $24,000 has been raised for the cause.
Five thousand soccer uniforms, 100 inflating pumps, 1,000 soccer balls and backpacks were donated to the effort by a Wilmington, Calif., soccer company. New Canaan, Conn., citizens donated over 2,000 stuffed animals. Backpacks will be filled with school supplies and then shipped to units in Iraq. When the materials are received by the units in Iraq, they will be distributed to the local children by the Soldiers conducting combat patrols throughout their respective areas of operation.
"I think we can congratulate ourselves on a job very well done," Dick Kolasheski said. "It would not have happened without all countless people pulling together to get it done."
Organizations who wish to contribute to Project Iraqi Kids can mail a tax deductible check payable to American Legion Post 256 – Iraqi Kids to:
American Legion Post 256
PO Box 233,
Vonore, TN 37885
"This war will not be won by bullets alone, but by efforts that directly address the needs and aspirations of the Iraqi people," Dick Kolasheski said. "This project will give our (Soldiers) additional tools that can be used to establish meaningful ties to an important segment of the Iraqi population, their children."