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Local Rotary supports troops abroad

Alan & Elizabeth WickertRotary Club of Summit County

The Summit County Rotary Club regularly sends care packages to troops who have connections to Summit County and are based in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eric Weis, attached letter, was one such person who received our packages. His father is a Summit County resident and former Rotarian. We supported Eric and his men for the entire 15 months with packages. The Rotarians will have boxes at the local supermarkets and, hopefully, Wal-Mart, this fall, collecting things to send for Christmas for the troops. Wed love the community to support us once again. As you see in this letter, the men and women of our military really love the packages.

Let me begin this message with two apologies. First, that Im sorry for writing to you all in a mass-produced letter. I received so many kind letters, notes of encouragement and thoughtful care packages that individual letters would have taken me until Christmas to catch up. Secondly, that it may have taken me quite a while to get back to you all. The long 15-month deployment was tremendously busy a convenient, yet realistic, excuse. Despite my utter lack of ability being a decent pen pal, please know that you all were thought of often and included in my prayers as well. It really made my deployment a little more palatable when I was consistently inundated with letter and care packages every couple of weeks when the mail finally made it out to our remote Patrol Base Murray in Arab Japour. My simple and sincere thanks in this letter does a poor job at describing how appreciative I am to have people like you in my life.We survived another deployment. Fifteen grueling months as the last surge brigade, placed in the inhospitable southern belt of Baghdad, known as Arab Japour a place that had become a safe haven for Al Qaeda in Iraq, devoid of any Coalition Forces, Iraqi Army, or Iraqi Police since OIF III (if you Google Patrol Base Murray + Arab Japour on the Internet, youll find numerous articles of our operations). I experienced the highs of conducting highly successful battalion level time-sensitive-target, ground and air assault missions, to the lows of losing 15 excellent soldiers killed in action and over 95 wounded in action in combat. I gave orders and executed actions that resulted in over 29 enemy killed in action and our soldiers making the ultimate sacrifice for brothers-in-arms and mission accomplishment. I have laughed, cried and shared blood with the men and women of my battalion. In all of this, I have grown as an officer, husband, father and son. Some lessons were harder learned than others, but I sleep easy at night knowing that the decent people of Arab Japour who were terrified of both Coalition Forces and Al Qaeda before we arrived stood up for their rights alongside of us, assisted in ridding the area of the remaining terrorist factions and can continue to put their lives and, hopefully, their country back together.Out of the 172 lethal-oriented, battalion and company-sized operations, Im most proud of our less-conspicuous non-lethal accomplishments. To name just a few: We facilitated the payment of just under $6 million to stimulate the local economy with new businesses and address key essential services (three major irrigation stations and 11 fresh-water stations, street lights, and Arab Jabour Governance Center, road de-mining/repairing/repaving); repaired 16 schools and facilitated the enrollment and attendance of girls in local schools for the first time in over four years; distributed over 100 boxes of school supplies (thanks to you all!); repaired 12 mosques and actually heard pro-Coalition Force sermons over their loudspeakers; had the first local nationals testify against 138 Al Qaeda detainees in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (a tremendous step forward in the terms of self-rule-of-law for Iraqis, not to fear retribution for testifying against Al Qaeda in open court); conducted the first and highly successful pilot program in Iraq for an Iraqi Central Criminal Court of Iraq judge to come into a previously untenable sector to hear testimony from local nationals against terrorists at our Governance Center; established the first Womens Initiative Councils (Al Boetha, East Rashid and South Rashid) in the Tigris River Valley (producing a successful sew shop with three satellite shops, two beauty parlors and a bakery); provided economic and employment initiatives by refurbishing a fuel station, rice factory, Kupa factory, propane facility, chicken hatchery and the automotive Jersey Strip Mall; stimulated the successful re-emergence of 38 fish farms and six bee farms; repaired low- and high-voltage power lines to create more consistent electricity for the greater Arab Jabour area; and created two Non-Governmental Organization Farmers Unions that facilitated field plowing, irrigation pump repair, and distribution of seed, plastic, fertilizer and pesticide. Unfortunately, those stories never made the prime-time news or front pages of the major newspapers, but I wanted you all to know that despite the dire warnings and forecasts for the Middle East, progress is being made and people who it affects most, care very much about the support and sacrifices we made.I wont pontificate on what the future holds for Iraq and our presence in the Middle East. Those types of decisions are best left to the policy makers. I can tell you that you would be proud of what the young men and women in uniform are performing on a daily basis half-way around the world. People like you all are the reason we continue to get up every morning and attempt to leave our sector better than when we found it no matter what the cost. I know they would appreciate your continued prayers for their safe return.I have been home now for a little more than a month. My family and I have transitioned to a new job and a new area for little more predictability and stability. Ive just taken over the reins as the regimental executive officer for the famous 3rd United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) based out of Fort Myer (Arlington Cemetery) in Virginia. Its nice to come back home to where Danielle and I both went to high school and college. Danielles parents are only a short 45-minute drive and by brother Tim and his lovely bride and 4-year daughter are close by as well. We couldnt begin to thank you enough for your thoughts, prayers, and thoughtfulness during the deployment. If you are ever in the D.C. area, please drop us a line.With my sincerest gratitude and thanks,Eric, Danielle, Campbell & TuckerArlington, Va.


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