Where hope outlasts war
EAGLE-VAIL – Six months in Iraq wasn’t all engineering and rebuilding for Dana Brosig. The former Battle Mountain High School student, who serves with the Army Corps of Engineers, managed to get to know many Iraqis well and now counts them among her closest friends. She calls them weekly, working around the 10-hour time difference between Davenport and Baghdad.One of the first things she did when she arrived was to help find proper footwear for the Iraqis on the reconstruction jobs. Many of them worked in the construction zones barefoot or in flip-flops.”We wanted to show them that we really cared about their safety,” says Brosig, 24, who now lives in Davenport, Iowa. “They never had any safety programs at all.”Iraqis construction workers in the Green Zone earn about $3 a day and could not afford to purchase shoes, she says.When they left the country many of the estimated 300 Army Corps engineers left their boots behind for Iraqis, she says.Those and other safety precautions were somewhat fatalistically brushed aside by the Iraqis with a friendly “En Shalla!” (if god wills it).
Lessons in courageHer six months there changed her – it made her more compassionate, says Brosig, whose father, Kurt, runs a masonry company in Edwards”Something I realized is all human beings are the same,” she says. “Just because I was born in the U.S. doesn’t mean I’m any better than an Iraqi. They didn’t choose to be there. They got stuck there. They deserve better.”That belief in a common humanity was hammered home when one of the young interpreters she worked with died in a car accident. The interpreter’s family visited the Corps of Engineers offices where Brosig worked.”The hope they had in their daughter was no different than anyone here has in a loved one,” she says.While that realization jelled, it was her working relationships and friendships with the Iraqis that proved the most life-changing, she says. “I knew them and trusted them as much as I trusted anyone here,” she says. “They sacrificed so much. In spite of everything they had been through they were full of so much joy and love.”The typical drive for an Iraqi working in the Green Zone would take up to two hours a day, Brosig said, because of the number of security checkpoints and searches.”My Iraqi friends taught me a great deal about courage,” she says.
An Iraqi friends working within the Green Zone had to sever her connections with Iraqi friends who wanted to know where she worked and what she did. Fear of insurgent action prevented her from disclosing that, Brosig said. Other Iraqis on the streets were fearful of waving at Americans because they feared repercussions from insurgents for showing their sympathy to the Americans.But change is slowly coming to the country. For the first time, Iraqis are being allowed to travel abroad. One of Brosig’s Iraqi workers who became a close friend took her first-ever vacation abroad to visit friends in Jordan.’We will succeed’Her journey to Iraq, interestingly enough, started at Palisade High School, from which Brosig graduated. She had focused her education on horticulture – the study of plants – until a teacher there helped her discover her aptitude for math.That caused her to change majors in college and to get into engineering. She was recruited by the Army Corps of Engineers during a job fair shortly after graduating from college. She worked for the Corps of Engineers for a year before traveling to Iraq.When she departed, she hadn’t yet decided if the American military intervention into Iraq was justified or not. Now she’s sure.
Her trip there also helped to fulfill one of her lifelong ambitions of helping a third-world country.”There’s a large amount of good going on there,” she says. “We are right in being there. We will succeed. We’re doing the right thing for the Iraqi people.”Much of the country’s infrastructure – its electrical power plants, water and sewer plants – were in sorry shape before the war because Saddam Hussein had diverted most of the country’s money toward his palaces and his own use, Brosig says. The result was infrastructure that was barely working. It got worse after the war when looters ransacked what was left.”They were operating at a very low percent of capacity,” she says. “The operators were afraid to ask for the money to fix them because they might be killed for doing so. There were so many needs.”Parts for the plants were scavenged from other plants until there were no more parts, she says. It was the same situation with the automobiles most Iraqis owned. But somehow the Iraqis managed to keep them running, she says.”The Iraqis are very, very resourceful,” she says.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado