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Rep. Jim Avery does the wash in this photograph taken on his military base somewhere in Iraq.

Coalition forces 'building' Iraq, Avery reports


Editor's Note: Rep. Jim Avery, R-Crestwood, has been deployed to serve in Iraq for a year with the National Guard's 1140th Engineering Battalion and he graciously has offered to write articles for the Call about his experiences. This is his third article



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One of Saddam Hussein's old palaces is shown in this photograph taken in Iraq by Rep. Jim Avery.
Making a trip to the Capitol usually is an ordinary event for a state representative unless the Capitol is Baghdad instead of Jefferson City.

Since my last article I have been through Baghdad on more than one occasion; each trip will never be forgotten.

What I am going to write will never fully explain how we all feel and what it is like to actually be here. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I would need at least a million words to describe this place.

In my biased opinion, that is why the mainstream media has such a hard time telling what I feel is the truth about the situation here in Iraq.

As usual, I cannot be specific about what I do and where I work. However, there are some things I want to share with you. I feel that my unit is safe considering our missions. Oftentimes while we are doing our mission, we find IEDs — improvised explosive devices. These are the roadside bombs that have been killing our troops.

Most of these IEDs are found, thus saving hundreds of lives each month.

Driving is one of the most dangerous jobs in this country. Every time we go out on a mission those not going always go out to say goodbye to those leaving. Some of us even hug each other and say something silly like: "I will keep dinner in the oven until you get home."

Those who know me understand what I am talking about when I say that I have found that my sense of humor helps me and some of the others cope with the stress of being in a combat zone.

Iraq is a very rural area; most people live in poverty. A good number of people I have seen are shepherds tending to their flocks.

My heart is always warmed when I see the little boys and girls on their way to school every morning. I always have a smile on my face when these children wave to us and yell for candy.

These children look like any other group of kids on their way to school carrying their books and wearing backpacks. Most of these children never had a school to go to before the coalition forces arrived.

I have heard the term "rebuilding'' Iraq used in the media many times.

Let me assure you we are actually building Iraq. There was not much to "rebuild."

Many people here have electricity and running water for the first time in their lives. Every day I see a new sign of capitalism no matter how small.

Newspapers are allowing Iraqi citizens the freedom of speech. Satellite dishes are appearing everywhere even on the smallest homes. Roadside shops are everywhere.

However, some people here still live in their own trash. I actually saw a group of nomads who lived in a trash dump.

Imagine camping out with your cows and sheep in the middle of a landfill. Not all people live in conditions like this; some people live in very nice homes and drive cars like BMWs and Mercedes.

I also want to report that I have run into several people from St. Louis at my new base. The very first day I was at my new base I ran into a friend who is also a college Republican from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Needless to say, we both could not believe that the other person was here in Iraq.

I also ran into two other service members in the chow hall here at my current location — Lance Cpl. Chris Tettaton, a Marine from Arnold, and Spc. Jennifer Brinkman, a soldier from south county.

I am happy to report that both of these service members are doing well and are safe at this time.

One of the new things I am trying to do is provide military members from Missouri a telephone card so that they can contact their family. The base I live on uses Internet phones, therefore, all of the calling cards I have received cannot be used here, so I have given out my phone cards.

Now I am asking anyone interested to send calling cards for me to hand out to these military people. This is important, we can only use AT&T calling cards here; no other calling card will work. My mailing address is:

CO A 1140th EN BN

SPC Jim Avery

LSA ADDER

APO AE 09331

I always try to be very careful not to mention anything political in my articles. Now if you will forgive me for a moment, I want to be political just one time. I would be remiss not to mention that the deadline to file for office has closed. I am thankful that I did not have someone file against me for re-election.

Now I don't have to worry about running for office while I am here in Iraq. I do want to publicly thank a few people who supported me and volunteered to run my campaign in my absence. These are my heroes.

Mike O'Donnell, Joe Kunkenmueller, Katy Forand and Cathy Forand all deserve my sincere gratitude. I also want to thank Rep. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, who, despite the fact that he has his own race to run, always has offered his help to me in my absence and personally has addressed many of my constituents' issues. Jim is more than just a friend, he is someone whom I hold in the highest regard.

I want to thank the Call for allowing me to send stories back home and I encourage you to contact them with your feedback. I have to tell you I was impressed when I received an e-mail from a lady in Ohio who read the Call while she was visiting St. Louis. Now she reads it online to keep up to date with my stories.

As always, if you want to e-mail me or if you want to receive additional updates and pictures, please feel free to e-mail me at jim_avery98@yahoo.com.

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