On such an unlucky date I have found myself to feel very lucky. I arrived at Camp Fallujah, Iraq late last night. This morning and for much of the afternoon, I patrolled through the city of Fallujah. I am staying with the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, at their forward operating bases inside the city for the duration of my trip. I have to admit, I was very hesitant leaving Camp Fallujah today, as the last time I went outside the walls of a camp in Iraq was in 2006, on a combat patrol. Things were very different then.[# More #]
The first thing difference that I noticed today was the amount of people in the city. In May of 2004, there were only a small number of people that stayed inside the city during the sweep and clear of the town, and from those that stayed, no one was outside. Now, the city was alive and busy, even for a Friday in a predominantly Muslim community. I notice the city has freshly painted buildings and restaurants. I could see 20 or 30 children playing in a soccer field, complete with soccer goals and painted lines on the grass. And that was the next difference I saw: grass.
Most of Iraq is made up of either rocky sand or a dirt-sand mixture with a consistency similar to that of a hot cocoa mix. In this rough terrain, people are watering lawns and growing grass. When I asked the Marines about the grass, they said “yeah, it amazed us too.” I asked them about why the Iraqis decided to grow grass. The Marines told me a story about a man who had told them he “wanted to take his children on a picnic”, and that “you couldn’t have a picnic without grass.” When I was in Fallujah before, no one was thinking about picnics, they were trying to stay alive. The scientific mystery of how the Iraqis were able to grow grass here is still unsolved.