By Sgt. David Hodge
1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division
BAGHDAD – A prominent community leader from southern Baghdad's Rashid District gathered with Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers, Sept. 27, 2008, at Forward Operating Base Falcon to celebrate a night of Ramadan.
Dr. Muayad Hamed, a philanthropist who has organized many community events in Rashid, served a traditional Iraqi feast to more than 400 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, MND-B Soldiers to mark the iftar, or breaking of the day's fast.
"On this day of Ramadan it is an honor to join with Soldiers," said Muayad to a large group of Soldiers at Falcon's Raider Cafe Dining Facility. "This dinner tonight is the end result of work between Iraqis and coalition forces. This is how it should always be."
Hamed coordinated and hosted several iftar dinners for 1st "Raider" BCT Soldiers during the month-long Muslim holiday of Ramadan.
"This is the first time [my people] have joined with Soldiers in celebration," he said.
Col. Ted Martin, commander of the Raider BCT, said he believes hospitality is very prevalent across the Rashid district during Ramadan.
"Iraqis are the most gracious hosts anyone will ever meet," said Martin, who hails from Jacksonville Beach, Fla. "Being invited to the dinners throughout Rashid is a big honor for me and also my Soldiers."
Traditionally during the month of Ramadan, levels of violence against coalition forces in Rashid peaks and security is heightened, but this year, there has been a decrease in attacks and violence in Rashid due to the progress of the last year, said Martin.
"I really think breaking the fast with our Iraqi brethren speaks about how well things are going in the Rashid District," he said.
Muayad selected a food called gus, more commonly referred to around the world as gyros, to serve to Raider Soldiers from the 4th Support Battalion and 1st Special Troops Battalion.
Spc. Silvia Olvera, a water treatment specialist assigned to Company A, 4th Supt. Bn., 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B, said she liked the food Hamed brought to the dining facility and will definitely try to eat Iraqi food again.
"It's good," stated Olvera, a native of San Bernardino, Calif. "I have never had it before – it's something new."
When Hamed approached Martin a few weeks ago with the idea of feeding Soldiers for Iftar, Martin had no idea how many people Hamed had in mind.
"I was thinking we would include about 15 to 20 Soldiers, but when I asked Dr. Muayad what we should plan for he said 400 to 500," Martin stated.
"It was very thoughtful to incorporate the Soldiers into the meal," 1st Lt. Rendy Yuhistira, executive officer for Co. C, 4th Supt. Bn., 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B. "They get to see the people and culture they are affecting."
Many Soldiers are stuck on the FOB and they don't get a chance to see how their work is affecting the country, said Yuhistira, a Washington-native.
"I think this dinner showed our Soldiers that many Iraqis are very appreciative of what we have done," he added.
"This was a fantastic night," Martin said. "We are really grateful to Dr. Muayad. "They are showing their happiness and thanks toward us. It's was a really special event."
This work, Prominent community leader celebrates day of Ramadan with Raiders, by SGT David Hodge, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.