The homefront: for many families of U.S. soldiers, the war in Iraq hits home every day.
"I dream that me and my mom are outside playing football," Julian tells JS. His mother, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Darrian P. Davenport, has been in Baghdad, Iraq, since last February and is expected to return home this March. The fourth-grader from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, eagerly anticipates enjoying his mom's cooking again. "She'll make my favorite meal--mashed potatoes, fish sticks, fried chicken, cinnamon toast, and collard greens," he says.
In her dreams, Brianna sees herself playing soccer with her father, Michael. While his official duties as a U.S. Army Sergeant First Class include training Iraq's new military force, Brianna says her dad is really just "a soccer nut" at heart. He, too, has been in Iraq since last February and is slated to return home this spring to Newburgh, New York.
What will be the first thing Brianna's dad does when he gets home? "He'll hug us and then eat a pizza," the eighth-grader tells JS. "He'll also come to watch my soccer games."
On a Mission
Today, there are about 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, the largest number since the March 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. National elections are scheduled for January 30. But insurgents are trying to disrupt the elections by attacking U.S.-led forces, Iraqis, and foreign-aid workers.
Many Americans who have family members in Iraq try to ignore daily news reports about roadside bombings, ambushes, and other attacks. Brianna and Julian try to stave off worry by focusing on their own personal missions--keeping their families together. This means doing extra chores and taking on more responsibilities at home.
"I have to do more laundry and washing [of] dishes," says Brianna. "I also baby-sit my brothers, Eric [age 10] and Devin [age 6]."
Brianna, who misses her father, sometimes cries when she is alone. But she tries to keep an upbeat mood for her brothers' sake: "They seek comfort from me sometimes. I just tell them that Dad will be home soon."
Julian also does his part to help out. He washes the dishes and cleans his room. But keeping busy is not always enough to stop his fears from surfacing.
"I didn't want [my mom] to go [to Iraq]," Julian says. "I'm afraid she might get shot. It makes me sad." It is during such moments that Julian finds comfort by talking to his grandmother.
"He's had a few nightmares," Julian's grandmother, Patricia Ames, tells JS. "We talk about it and try to make life as normal as possible. We try not to worry. It's important to just keep going."
Memories of Home
Both Julian and Brianna send comforting reminders of home to Iraq. Julian's last care package to his mother included his school photos, his report card (A's and B's), and some teddy bears. Brianna and her brothers recently sent their father letters, comic strips, and his favorite snack--butterscotch pudding.
Julian and Brianna both say how proud they are of their parents' sacrifice and service to their country and to the Iraqi people. But in the end, what matters most for Julian and Brianna is their safe return home.
"I'm proud of my father because he's willing to give his life for his country," Brianna says. "He's [been] away from us for so long. It's different not having him around."
Julian already knows how he'll welcome his mother home. He says he'll line up his pets--Phoebe, a Pomeranian, and Zachary, a hamster--and give her a parade.
"I won a gold necklace [in a raffle]," he says. "When I see my mom, I'm going to scream and hug her. Then I'm going to give her the necklace. She'll love it."
THINK ABOUT IT
1. What do Brianna and Julian do to help ease their worries?
2. Would you want to volunteer for the armed services? What sacrifices would be necessary? What rewards might you gain?
Students should understand
* the challenges that many families of U.S. troops have experienced during the war in Iraq.
* TEACHING STRATEGY
Ask students: "Would you enlist in the U.S. armed forces?" Explore with students the reasons why a person would enlist in the military.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last month that he expects U.S. troops to remain in Iraq until 2008--depending on the ability of Iraq's new security forces to protect the country independently. The recent increase of U.S. troops in Iraq came at a time when coalition allies Honduras, New Zealand, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Spain, and Thailand ended their commitment of military forces. Hungary plans to withdraw in March, and Poland may withdraw all of its troops by 2005.
* CRITICAL THINKING
MAIN IDEA: How have Julian Peters and Brianna Wright been affected by the war in Iraq? (Both Julian and Brianna have a parent currently serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq. In addition to taking on more responsibilities at home, both kids worry for their parent's safety.)
MAIN IDEA: What is part of U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Michael Wright's (Brianna's father) official duty in Iraq? (Wright is training Iraq's new military force.)
CARE PACKAGE TO U.S. TROOPS: Ask students: "If you were a U.S. soldier fighting in a war, what items from home would you miss most?" Ask students to explain their choices. Afterward, guide them to the homefronthugs.com Web site to learn more about sending care packages overseas to a U.S. soldier.
SOCIAL STUDIES, GRADES 5-8
* Individuals, groups, and institutions: How the children and families of U.S. soldiers are affected by warfare.
* Power, authority, and government: How the U.S.-led war in Iraq is progressing.
* Avi, Don't You Know There's a War On? (Harper Trophy, 2003). Grades 7-8.
* Paterson, Katherine, Park's Quest (Puffin, 1989). Grades 5-8.
* Roberts, Jeremy, U.S. Army Special Operations Forces (Lerner Pub 2004). Grades 5-8.
* Homefront Hugs USA homefronthugs.com
* American Red Cross www.redcross.org
SPECIAL: THE HOMEFRONT, PAGES 8-9
* Use a word from the list to correctly complete each sentence.
Army, Baghdad, brother, chores, December, Falluja, homework, Iraq, insurgents, March, mother, Muslims, reservists, stepmother
11. Julian and Brianna try to avoid worrying about their parents by doing more--
12. --have stepped up their attacks as the January 30 national elections near.
13. Brianna's father is helping to train--'s new military force.
14. Julian's--has been in Baghdad, Iraq, since last February.
15. The U.S.-led attack against Saddam Hussein's regime began in--2003.
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|Date:||Jan 10, 2005|
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