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We shut the aircraft down and what we saw was 350 plus people ranging in ages from 6 months to old and gray standing silently at a fence watching our every movement. I walked around the nose of my aircraft a mere 150 feet away from this crowd, I gave a simple smile and raised my arm up over my head and was greeted with the most substantial roar of levity that I have ever heard in my life. 350 plus people were cheering. Not because I play an instrument in some notable band, acted in a big Hollywood movie, or wrote some famous novel. They were cheering because I am part of something bigger than that. I am part of a team made up of men and women who all wear a uniform of some kind symbolized by a colorful patch known as the Stars and Stripes. A team that helped liberate an entire culture of people almost killed off because they were different. Like the Americans were to the Jews we are to the Kurds.

Before I ramble anymore about this occasion I feel that I am obligated to expose you to what happened to these people. Halajba, the town we flew too, sits directly on the Iranian border. In fact almost a one quarter of the town is in Iran. During the 1980s there was a conflict known as the Iran/Iraq war. This city was at the frontlines of this battle. Historically speaking the Kurdish people have been oppressed and looked down upon by their Arab counterparts in Iraq because they are not Arabic. They are different. They are a melting pot of many different beliefs; their cultural heritage stems across every religion known to man. This diversity sets them apart and makes them great. Well Islamic Arabs known as Sunni and Shia don't have a good history of liking people who are different. The perfect illustration of this is the fact that the Sunni and Shia can't even agree on their own religion. Minor differences between these two branches such as how many times a day they pray, certain important figures in their history, and different holidays is grounds enough for them to not even like each other. Now the Kurds have always been at the bottom of this hierarchy; Saddam was a Sunni and for many years the Sunni Arabs had a good life. The Shia and Kurds were oppressed by this regime quite fiercely with the The Kurds receiving the brunt of it. During the Iran/Iraq war Saddam bombed many cities like this without remorse simply because they were Kurdish. Many ruined cityscapes still litter this country side from that conflict. If that wasn't enough in 1987 Saddam organized an operation completely aimed at eradicating or otherwise imprisoning every Kurd in the country. It began with interment into concentration style camps outside of the major cities. This was followed by the bombing of Kurdish cities. All this climaxed in 1988 when Saddam launched a massive chemical weapons attack which left over 5,000 fatalities in Halajba alone. The final toll of Kurdish fatalities ranged from 300,000 to 500,000 killed. Thousands more wounded and imprisoned. All this was because they were different.

Today was a side of the war that I had never before seen. I saw the fighting last time I was here. The tracers illuminating the night skies, the bombs and hellfires being dropped on insurgents while inserting fresh troops and pulling out the dead and wounded ones. I saw the fear and terror that people can leash upon one another. The awesome horrific sight of what firepower can do to soft skin targets of both friendlies and enemies. I was prepared to go to war again. To see and experience those horrific moments not often spoken about by those who were there. Today I stood in awe as I was thanked, not by a passerby at the airport or some restaurant I was eating at, but by an entire nation of people that we as a team helped save and preserve. Because of our efforts, which started after the first Gulf War to present, these people have emerged as a supreme culture of individuals at once on the brink of extinction. This is no longer a war as far as a traditional definition would go; it is about the people of Iraq now. It's not about bullets and bombs but handshakes and smiles. We have done our job and we did it well and I don't care what any peace loving tree hugging hippy says after watching CNN because today I was personally thanked by more people of another country then that of my own country. If that is not a testament to the job that we have done here than I do not know what is. These are free people who have lived with 3,000 years of oppression. They are free because of our efforts. They are free because of our sacrifice.

Feel free to pass this story and pictures along to every American. It is our duty to make sure that they know the truth about what we are doing over here and the results of those efforts. The liberal media would try and disgrace our sacrifice or otherwise downplay the importance of our mission in Iraq and that is just not fair to the fighting men and women of the United States of America. This is a reminder to those liberal hippies that sometimes there are people in this world who need a good ass kicking to help save the little guy and no one does it better than an American Soldier. Hooah!

SGT Christopher A. Hoffert
Afghanistan '04-'05, Iraq '06-'07, and '09-'10
Alpha Company 3rd Battalion 25th Combat Aviation Brigade
FOB Diamondback, Iraq
3 Oct 2009

FOLLOW UP: Hey Ernie thanks for helping me put out the good news. Here are a couple of videos we took that day. It is better than any story I could write about it. The cheers are just humbling to me to know that we are making such a difference. This one is our initial entrance after just shutting down our aircraft. This was towards the end, just before we went to the museum/memorial. I must note that the cheering never stopped for at least the 20 minutes we were out there shaking hands. Chris.

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