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Iraqi Children Get a Kick Out of Donation

By Pfc. Brian Schroeder
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Oct. 4, 2004 – Troops from the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion, attached to the 1st Cavalry Division, visited children in a local community recently to drop off new soccer balls.

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Sgt. Richard Porter, 425th Civil Affairs Battalion sergeant, stands with Iraqi children who had soccer equipment donated to them. Porter was contacted through a coworker of his in civilian life who wanted to donate soccer equipment to the children. Photo by Pfc. Brian Schroeder, USA
  

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Thirty Iraqi children were outfitted with brand new soccer equipment, donated by a group of 50 residents in the Tulsa, Okla., area. Holly Nester, an employee of WilTel Communications, organized a fund drive to purchase the equipment for the kids. She gathered more than $1,500 in donations to purchase soccer balls, socks, shin guards, cleats and water bottles, and to cover shipping costs for the equipment.

Nester was born in Kuwait and was raised in Iran until the late 1970s. She approached Sgt. Richard Porter, 425th battalion sergeant, and an employee of WilTel at their Los Angles office, with the idea of donating soccer equipment to Iraqi children.

"Holly said she has many fond memories of growing up and playing soccer with the local kids in her neighborhood," Porter said. "She said that she wanted to do something soccer related for a few Iraqi children.

"Holly approached me for help because of where I am stationed and the nature of my job," Porter continued. "We gave her contact information of a local Iraqi, who could receive the donation. The gear was then shipped directly to our contact in the village, who then delivered everything to the team's coach for distribution to the players."

Most of the projects civil affairs soldiers undertake are funded through the Commander's Emergency Response Program funds. These projects include providing water pumps and generators or refurbishing schools in local Iraqi communities. Other items given to Iraqi citizens, such as shoes, clothes or soccer equipment, are paid for through individual or group donations.

Maj. Robert Misajon, the battalion's team leader, said that soldiers cannot ask for donations directly.

"The more direct the donors can be with the locals is better, because we can't ask solders to solicit donations," he said. "In this case they asked us where they could send the equipment and we put them in touch with a local national who they shipped the equipment to directly. Holly said she wants to keep sending more stuff, and with the connection she made with the local national, she will be able to."

Civil affairs soldiers' mission in Iraq is to provide a liaison between the host country and the military, and to make immediate improvement in the quality of life for local citizens. Porter said that by shipping directly to a local community leader, the Iraqi citizens feel involved in helping their own village.

"With this project, we were not the ones handing out the stuff," Porter said. "We basically put it into the hands of the Iraqis."

(Army Pfc. Brian Schroeder is assigned to 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs Office.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSpc. Zachary Reisz, 425th Civil Affairs Battalion civil affairs specialist, plays soccer with an Iraqi child. Soccer equipment to outfit two teams was contributed and shipped directly to an Iraqi village from a group of donors in the Tulsa, Okla., area. Photo by Pfc. Brian Schroeder, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSpc. Zachary Reisz, 425th Civil Affairs Battalion civil affairs specialist, plays a one-on-one soccer game with an Iraqi youth. The civil affairs team coordinated with a donor in the United States to have soccer equipment shipped to a small Iraqi village. Photo by Pfc. Brian Schroeder, USA  
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