News: Iraqi army brings cheer to children
Story by Spc. Richard Colletta
TIKRIT, Iraq — Soldiers of the 4th Iraqi Army Division were greeted with smiles March 16, when they stepped through the doors of the Tikrit Orphanage with armfuls of boxes containing toys, books, clothes, school supplies, food and more.
The orphanage which houses a little more than 50 children, many with mental and physical disabilities, relies on donations from the community.
Doctor Shaha Aljubori, deputy manager of the orphanage said that the Soldiers of the 4th IA Div. are always there for them. They have also received aid and support from the Bayji Oil Refinery and the Provincial Reconstruction Team.
"Anything I need, I can call them and they're ready to help us out," Aljubori said of the Iraqi army.
Most of the children at the orphanage have lost their parents and have no close relatives to care for them.
Aljubori recounted a story about a 17-year-old boy at the orphanage who received an exception from the Iraqi Minister of Defense to join the Iraqi army. .
"Now he's a Soldier and serves in the Iraqi army," she said proudly.
As Iraqi Army Soldiers handed out toys and clothes the children were all smiles. The joy was evident on the children's faces, one little girl's face lit up as an Iraqi Soldier picked her up and played with her for moment.
"The grown-ups are just as happy to give the gifts as the children are to receive them," Aljubori said.
Many of the gifts and supplies delivered were collected by American Soldiers, donated from churches back home and from friends and families back in the United States.
"The 4th IA Div. supports the orphanage but they don't have a budget," said Col. Jim Ekvall, the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division's senior advisor to the commander of the 4th IA Div.
"Most of the support for the orphanage comes from the kindness of the Iraqi soldiers and from donations," he said.
Lt. Col. Amir Ibrahim, a civil affairs officer with the 4th IA Div. expressed his gratitude for the donations, and was happy to have the opportunity to visit the orphanage. He said the Iraqi army planned to continue working with the orphanage and supporting them.
"We understand that these people are part of the Iraqi society and [helping] them and [looking] at their needs is part of our mission," he said.