Face of Defense: Soldier Brings Joy to Young Iraqis
By Army Sgt. Mary S. Katzenberger
U.S. Division Center
BAGHDAD, Sep. 29, 2010 A U.S. soldier deployed here teamed with his father to deliver free soccer equipment to appreciative Iraqi children.
Army Pfc. Dominick Skompski, right, an Iraq-deployed armor crewman with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, U.S. Division–Center, passes out soccer balls to Iraqi children in a rural area of Baghdad Sept. 13, 2010. The soccer balls were donated by Americans through the Winning Hearts and Minds Project, a charity created by Skompski’s father, Joe D’Alessandro, the president of the Cohansey Soccer Club in Upper Deerfield Township, N.J. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mary S. Katzenberger
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Armor crewman Pfc. Dominick Skompski and some of his fellow soldiers distributed more than 30 donated soccer balls to Iraqi children living at various farms in the Baghdad area Sept. 13.
Skompski, who has played soccer since he was a child, said it felt good to hand out soccer balls to the children.
The young Iraqis “don’t really have a lot out here,” said Skompski, who serves here with Company D, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, U.S. Division–Center.
Skompski said the Iraqi children were very happy to get the soccer balls.
“It’s not much, but it’s something for them,” he said.
Skompski had enlisted the help of his father, Joe D’Alessandro, the president of the Cohansey Soccer Club in Upper Deerfield Township, N.J.
D’Alessandro’s club started its non-profit Winning Hearts and Minds project in 2008, where donations of new and used soccer equipment are shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan and distributed by U.S. civil affairs units. Since the WHAM project’s creation, about 5,000 pounds of donated soccer equipment has been shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan.
After receiving their soccer balls, the Iraqi children practiced their dribbling, kicking and heading skills. One boy celebrated the receipt of his gift by doing a long-duration handstand that was rewarded with applause and cheers.
Skompski said he is proud of and thankful for his father’s help in building trust with the local Iraqi children.
“[He has always been] one to help others when they’re going through a rough time,” Skompski said of his father. “I’m glad he’s helping me.”