Why I’m re-engaging with Iraq

With my daughter at home in North Carolina (Source: UNH Magazine)

I have no doubt by now that you’ve heard of EPIC’s new initiative to help Syrian refugees in Iraq, TentEd. EPIC director Erik Gustafson and leader of TentEd Zack Bazzi have already outlined the compelling needs of Syria’s children who are at risk of becoming a lost generation. As you read this:

  • Iraq is hosting 227,000 Syrian refugees, including more than 92,000 children.
  • More than half of Syrian school-age children residing in Iraq are not attending school.
  • The half that do attend school lack basic supplies–including backpacks, writing implements, and chalk boards–making it harder to stay engaged with lessons and learn the material.

It sounds like a terrible situation for these kids, but to tell the you the truth, I’ve been checked out of Iraq for a long time now.

You see, I was a soldier in 2006, serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Iraq. While leading a patrol of Iraqi soldiers, I stepped on a roadside bomb. I ended up, quite literally, giving an arm, a leg, and nearly all of my blood to a land and people that I hardly knew. When I got home, I checked out from Iraq. I ignored the headlines and instead focused on recovering, starting a family, and building a life after the Army.

But I knew one day that I would be drawn back to Iraq and its people.

Hearing from Zack about the struggles of Syrian children living in the Domiz and Gawilan refugee camps, I knew the time had come to re-engage with Iraq. But things really struck home as I walked through the aisles at Staples with my 5-year old son. We were picking out a backpack, notebooks, crayons, and others supplies for his first day of kindergarten.

It was a stark contrast from what Zack first described to me during his visit to Iraq. Sitting in the checkout line with my cart over-flowing with school supplies opened my mind to the compelling need in that far-away place–right now–as you read this email.

I cannot go back to Iraq myself. School, family, and life in general have grown too hectic for that. But I’m happy to open my wallet to help Zack make a difference.

Please consider doing the same.

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