Mideast Notebook: Quest for shoes nets thousands of pairs
The 68th Chemical Company of the 1st Cavalry Division would have been content to collect a few hundred pairs of shoes for some Baghdad children. Instead, the unit received more than 5,000 pairs of flip-flops, sandals and sneakers from people in the United States.
And the boxes kept coming.
First Lt. Brian Cyr, from Nebraska, started the shoe drive nearly three months ago. With so many shoes delivered through his unit, he’s bringing the drive to a close.
The 68th Chemical Company is currently serving in the Al Rashid district of southern Baghdad. The unit began the shoe drive when they saw that many Iraqi children had nothing on their feet.
Publicity from the event widened when Catholic News Services, a national newsletter, picked up the story. Shoe shipments, as well as a few monetary donations, came in from all over the United States.
The chemical company distributed 1,000 pairs of shoes initially in one sitting. As more boxes started coming in, the company would take the shoes out on patrol and hand them out to groups of kids and their mothers.
Out of pogs
You know those pog things that the Army and Air Force Exchange Service gives instead of change in the Middle East? Troops often grumble about them, but even these cardboard discs occasionally become scarce.
Recently the International Zone’s exchange not only ran out of metal money, it also ran out of pogs. A sign on the register pleaded for troops to trade them in for greenbacks.
Oscar the friendly ghost
Speaking of exchanges, an Iraqi translator was observed perusing row after row of American DVDs inside one of the military stores. He took no notice of Academy Award winners “Mystic River,” “The Godfather” or any other fawned-over flicks that graced the rack.
But at the sight of Eddie Murphy on the cover of “The Haunted Mansion,” he stopped. His face was that of a serious critic, but his eyes showed genuine joy.
“This,” he said, “is a beautiful film.”
Chief Warrant Officer Charles McNorton performed his first re-enlistment since his promotion to a commissioned officer — for a very familiar soldier.
McNorton, with the 1st Cavalry Division’s 15th Personnel Services Battalion now deployed to Iraq, re-enlisted his wife, Sgt. 1st Class Melissa McNorton, a career counselor with 1st Cavalry Headquarters at Fort Hood, Texas, by video conference last month.
“It was a very special thing,” said Charles McNorton in a press statement. “I really appreciate the retention folks putting this together.”
The re-enlistment requires that the enlisting soldier, a commissioned and noncommissioned officer and the U.S. flag be present.
The video conference ceremony was made possible by Sgt. Maj. Merle Henry, the 1st Cav Division’s command career counselor based in Baghdad. Melissa McNorton works on his re-enlistment team at Fort Hood.
The division re-enlisted about 1,100 soldiers in Baghdad and tripled its stabilization numbers — when soldiers don’t ask for a new duty station — over last year, the division reported.