Postcards from Baghdad

  • Lt. CMDR Melinda Michael at Camp Fallujah in Iraq with her hometown paper, The Mountain Enterprise.

    Lt. CMDR Melinda Michael at Camp Fallujah in Iraq with her hometown paper, The Mountain Enterprise.

It has been a long path for Melinda Michael, from the loss of her husband in a tragic car crash on Interstate 5, through the founding of Love INC., work with the Mountain Communities Town Council, Search and Rescue and Meals on Wheels to her job today, building toward the hope of peace in Iraq.

By Patric Hedlund

At first glimpse, you might think the hills on the horizon in the picture above resemble the peaks surrounding Melinda Michael’s hometown of Frazier Park. Then you look more closely and realize suddenly that those are not distant mountains: those are berms, the sides of bunkers built for protection from incoming mortar attacks often launched by hostile forces surrounding the U.S. troops based in Fallujah, Iraq.

U.S. Naval Reserve Lt. Commander Michael, 47 is back on active duty, based in Baghdad in her role as military liaison to a civilian U.S. AID mission focused on rebuilding a country in which, she says, "everything is broken."

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have come home to our mountain as an increasing number of family members, friends and neighbors are serving there or have recently returned from service there. Our town, like those across America, are feeling the impact of a war that has gone on for longer than WWII. As we are told we do not have sufficient funds available to take precautions against West Nile Virus, or to repair infrastructure or rebuild schools at home, the U.S. taxpayer funds shipped to Iraq are nudging half a trillion dollars.

Michael called for a chat that became an interview on July 30, just before Fiesta Days. By August 2, as the Ferris wheel was going up in Frazier Mountain Park, she wrote from Baghdad, "The President has been talking with the Ambassadors and Generals here about performance indicators. Everyone is in a whirlwind.

When we mentioned The Mountain Enterprise staff was busy covering Fiesta Days August 3,4 and 5 she replied, "…Was wondering why I felt so down today. I’m missing the big event! I miss everyone. Wish I had a Search and Rescue Burger right now. I’m sitting here planning a trip to Babil to develop Agribusiness in the area. We have to sort out where it is safe before we go. The farmers have united and formed unions which is a positive step toward peace in this land of Babil."

Michael is like most Americans, if you believe the polls these days. She is working hard at what she feels is her duty, but she doesn’t know what is going to work when it comes to American presence in a land where the daily mortar attacks on her compound in Baghdad and the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) threatening every convoy to every meeting about rebuilding are a persistent reminder that the U.S. is unwelcome, though many of the civilian efforts are deeply appreciated by Iraqi individuals.

Over the next few months, we will report to you in Postcards from Baghdad what life is like on the other side of the globe for one who has contributed much to our Mountain Communities, and who is now ducking mortars in the middle of the night.

To Be Continued…

This is part of the August 10, 2007 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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