82ND AIRBORNE DIVISION Local man comes home changed after meeting the children of Iraq
The soldier said part of his mission was to win the minds of the people.
By AMBER HYLAND
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- He thought he would be in Iraq for six to seven months. But when he found out he would be there for a year, he said it was hope that got him through.
Spec. Matthew Rosebaugh, 22, of the 82nd Airborne Division says he has learned a lot about the ever-changing face of combat, the obligation to Iraqi citizens -- and himself.
The Boardman resident, who attended West Point this past year, has also served in Iraq and talked to The Vindicator about his experiences there.
Building the economy
In a suburb south of Baghdad, Rosebaugh and fellow troops employed Iraqis as contractors to rebuild schools, paying them $2 to $3 an hour.
Rosebaugh said this is more money than they ever saw in their lives. He added that some troops paid people to cook meals and gave them $5.
"They almost couldn't take it," he said. "It was so much to them."
Rosebaugh said the troops helped local economy in small ways, buying things from the market or stores and using Iraqis' phones.
"They would charge you [to use the phone], but it didn't matter," Rosebaugh said. "A call to your family is priceless."
In addition, the troops got water and power plants running again.
Rosebaugh said the press doesn't show the people who are happy in Iraq, the people whose lives were changed with soldiers' help.
"The media will show that there are only 40 percent of homes with running water," he said. "It could have been only 20 percent before."
Combat is ever-changing, Rosebaugh said, and part of that is the responsibility to the people.
"Our mission for a while became 'Win the minds of the people,'" Rosebaugh said.
The Iraqi people should not be left "high and dry," he added, especially when the mission is to fight for their freedom.
"You do what needs to be done, and you take care of what's been done," he said. "Not only do you win the war, but you win over the people."
Soldiers as teachers
Rosebaugh said he and fellow troops built relationships with children from the neighborhood in Baghdad.
"They wanted to talk to us," he said. "We were looked up to. We gave them their freedom."
Soldiers gave children various school supplies, he said.
"They thought it was the greatest thing to have pencils and paper," Rosebaugh said, adding that many children didn't know what a calculator was. They had to show them how to use it.
"We were their teachers for a while when the schools were being rebuilt," he said.
Because they wanted to communicate with the soldiers, Rosebaugh said the children tried to teach them Arabic by pointing to objects and saying the Arabic word for it.
Soldiers would tell them the English word for the object.
Rosebaugh said soldiers found a way to communicate and taught many children how to speak some English.
He said this helped him deal with people better. "If I can deal with someone who has a different language, I can deal with someone who has whatever problem with me," he said.
Many soldiers gave the children their televisions and PlayStations when they left.
"I always knew it would be different when I came back, but I never knew how different," Rosebaugh said.
Even Wal-Mart is a whole new experience for him. In Baghdad, stores were far away and did not have everything in one location. Rosebaugh said he would have to write his parents letters to tell them if he needed something. Then he would wait for the package.
Overall, Rosebaugh said he realized what people take for granted, things other people will never have that are thrown away every day.
This realization gives him less to worry about.
"If someone says they're bored I say, 'No, you're not. Don't tell me you're bored,'" Rosebaugh said. "Some kids were flipping out about little stuff in school. There's more to worry about in life than little stuff. You don't have to worry about being shot at. You don't wake up wondering if you are going to have something to eat."