EAST BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 4, 2006 - An excited group of young girls from the Zafarania Girls Orphanage received an extended visit from 26 soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, as well as other units within the 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
The Fires Battalion sponsored the event. The soldiers worked hard to get selected to make the trip to the orphanage. When they heard what a difference spending time with the girls would make, the soldiers were ready. Donations flowed in from the United States from churches as well as from soldiers' families and friends, and totaled more than one-hundred boxes. Soldiers also chipped in to add more food and drinks.
"Spreading the love to the girls by sharing clothes, toys and the Easter egg hunt really made the event special," said CPT Jimmy Major, chaplain, HHB, 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment.
"I heard about the Easter plan for the orphanage at the chapel," said LTC Kim Chaney, administrative officer, HHC, 506th Infantry Regiment. "My wife, Greta, my brother Todd"s youth group, my sister Julia, my son's girlfriend Cara along with their family and friends sent eleven boxes of donations. Their hearts went out to the girls at the orphanage."
"I felt like they treated me like their mother. It was unexpected that they were so comfortable with us as we communicated mainly with signs and facial expressions," said SGT Gloria Hernandez, human resources specialist, HHC, 506th Infantry Regiment.
The setting included green grass, beautiful cool weather, and twelve young girls who live at the orphanage. Events included an Easter egg hunt with over 300 eggs, a wonderful meal, gift giving from the donations sent to Iraq and even some special dancing.
"It was like an oasis amidst the poverty and desperation," said Chaney. The beauty of the grounds with the lush grass and the flowers was striking and we all felt how precious the girls were, he added.
The key to giving is giving to someone who cannot give something tangible back - but these girls did give smiles, laughter, and shared dancing and fellowship. For the soldiers, the experience of sharing with the girls shone in their own faces. The Sisters who care for the girls were very gracious and set the tone with loving kindness.
"I realized how much we are alike in so many ways by spending the afternoon hunting Easter eggs with the girls," said SPC Leah Bentsen, human resources specialist, HHC, 506th Infantry Regiment.
"The girls and the nuns were so excited. They even brought us a little bit of home by singing a Christian song in English," said SPC Charles Joseph, HHB, 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment.
"It was a very enjoyable experience for both the girls and my soldiers. It was a great way for the soldiers to spend their Easter if they had to be away from their families," said LTC Kevin Milton, commander, 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment.