BASRA, Iraq – When the wounded warriors with Operation Proper Exit visited Basra, Iraq, Dec. 7, they received a warm welcome from soldiers on the base, from the ranks of private through major general.
Another group, perhaps more unexpectedly, also welcomed them – Iraqi military leaders and civilians.
Iraqi Air Force Brig. Gen. Sami Al Tamimy, the commander of the IAF’s 70th Squadron, hosted the group for lunch and spoke with the group of Americans who had been wounded in Iraq years before.
“I would like to thank you for all the sacrifices that you’ve made to accomplish our wishes to build a safe and secure and democratic Iraq,” Tamimy told the Americans. “We promise you, we are going to work as hard as you did to accomplish these wishes, and we hope to God that he blesses you and blesses us all.”
Iraqis traditionally honor their own war wounded on the Day of the Wounded Soldier, with gifts, and with a lifetime salary for the disabled.
One Basrawi, who wished to remain anonymous, met the troops and said he felt indebted to the American visitors with Proper Exit.
“We in Iraq are so thankful for the U.S. soldiers who helped us get rid of Saddam’s regime after living under his dictatorship for decades,” he said. “I think American wounded soldiers cannot be honored enough because what they have done for our country is priceless; they gave us the freedom we, the Iraqis, were dreaming of.”
The man added that he personally thanked the wounded warriors who visited and he believes Iraq should honor Americans who have made sacrifices with monuments in every city.
Before dining, Tamimy left the Americans with a final, meaningful message.
“I would like you to consider Iraq your second country,” Tamimy said. “Without all this work that you’ve been doing here, we would not be here in front of you so thank you for all the work that you did for us.”