A reader tipped me off to this haunting and beautifully written blog by an active duty soldier in Iraq. Read as much as you can. It's a humbling experience. My favorite recent post among many is about the soldier's accidentally trashing an old Kurdish man's car with his military truck. He breaks protocol, and gets out to apologize. He tells the old man he will repair the damage. A week later, he returns to the scene of the mishap and looks for the man:

The old man, the elder of this part of the endless slum meets me at his door. He is doubled over, hobbling along with the aide of his cane and his son. His wife is crying and smiling, a unique combination that catches my attention. The old man didn't appear so frail, so broken when we saw him last. But I realize in that moment, that he had never stood, he had sat in the door way and refused to move all those nights ago. He extends his frail, almost shattered looking hand that bears the scars of foregone dictator, and we shake hands. I look at him the eye, clutch his other shoulder with my free hand and say to him, "I kept my word sir. I told you that I wouldn't do you wrong." My interpreter and him exchange some durkas and then he replies through sammy, "I never expected an American soldier to understand his word, his promise"...

Our exchange goes on for several minutes and I lay out the details of how he is to collect the money entitled to him for our damage. In fact, the money will be enough probably to replace the entire car but I don't tell him that, why ruin the surprise. At one point the conversation goes from business to personal and takes on an air of familiarity. This old man begins to feel not like an old man in a ghetto in some city in northern Iraq, but rather an old man, broken and impoverished by a society that moves too fast to notice, much like many of the older men and women back home...

Towards the end of our talk, that has gone from politics to sports (soccer). We even talk of our our women, he shows me pictures of his grandchildren and I show him a picture of my own heart, my lady. At the end of our time together, he pulls me in close, almost to an embrace, grabs my arm and almost in a raspy whisper says "You are a good man. You have the kindest eyes I have known in my life, too kind to be a man of soldiering. You are a man of honor and your heart is kinder than your years.". He releases me, shakes my hand and then turns to walk back into his house. There are tears in my eyes, my legs are shaky and a strong chill startles my spine. Despite being blown -up, shot at, hated, spit at, had shit thrown at, in the middle of this ghetto in some no name neighborhood in the backwoods of a city in northern Iraq, two men met and became friends in the gravest of places. I couldn't invent that man's words if given all the time in the world. "You have the kindest eyes.." I will tell my girl that later on the phone and she says nothing, but I can hear the tears on her cheeks and the soft sniffle in her nose. Whats wrong baby I will ask her, why are you crying... I will never forget the old man in the slum.

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