P.E. teacher helping with rundown Iraqi schools

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Edwardo Christ continues his commitment to school children, but currently, it is not to his his students at W.O. Parmer Elementary School.

Christ, who teaches physical education, continues his deployment to Iraq, where he has served for the last several months since he arrived on Nov. 28, 2004.

He said recently that the experience there has been good and bad, but he and his unit are trying to make the best of

the situation.

"Some of the bad things you see it on television," he said via email.

"The good things you won't ever see on CNN or FOX NEWS.

For instance, I've visited several poor Iraqi elementary schools in remote areas.

Many of the schools are constructed of mud and sticks with floors being dirt.

In addition, books and school supplies are very scarce."

He said his unit is funding the construction of several new schools in the area using donations from home.

"With these donations, we distributed school supplies, clothes, shoes, toys and candies to the Iraqi orphanages and elementary schools," he said. "I've participated in this mission and it was a great experience delivering these items.

He also said the hardest part about this deployment is missing his children.

"It's been difficult for me to be away from my family and friends," he said. "The hardest part is being away from my wife, Mary, and kids, Lauren and Caleb.

Not being able to watch my kids grow up Not being there to help them with their homework.

The little things you take for granted."

He said if he could talk to his students, this deployment has taught him some things and he would share with them.

"Be thankful of the little things in life," he said. "The Iraqi students are no different from my students.

They appreciate and are happy of what they have."

He also said he would tell them to be thankful and to appreciate things like air conditioning and heat.

" All the Iraqi elementary schools in the remote areas have neither and the Iraqi temperatures are very extreme," he said.

He said schools in America are first class compared to the schools in Iraq.

He said many have dirt or muddy floors and that students have to walk to school.

Also, where students in Butler County get free textbooks, students in Iraq do not and many can't afford to buy what they need to learn.

He also said in Iraq, the students do not have colorful classrooms filled with bulletin boards and pictures, nor would an American student find a computer.

And as for school lunches, there are none in Iraq.

So Christ said he'd tell his students to appreciate the basic things in life, and to remember they are living in the greatest country in the world.

He said things have gone easier during this deployment due to technology.

"It's a positive, because the

technology has improved since Operation Desert Shield/Storm," he said. "We can e-mail and make phone calls more often than before."

However, Christ is quick to point out there are many negatives about the county, one being the insurgents.

"There are no enemy lines," he said. "You have to guess who is friendly and who's not.

You are always wondering if an Improvised Explosive Device (IED's) is near or a suicide bomber is following or waiting for you.

You drive one mile and everyone is waving.

The next mile you are getting shot at."

He said as for the Iraqi people, many are happy the Americans are there.

"The majority of the Iraqi people are happy that we are here," he said. "They understand that we are here to help.

Every time we go through town, the Iraqi people are always waving or giving us thumbs up.

Especially the children, they are always running to the edge of the road and waving with a big smile.

They are always happy to see American soldiers."

Christ said he will likely be deployed until later this year, but his orders said no less than 18-months.

He said he takes it all in stride.

He should know something about the area now since he was deployed in 1991 for Operation Desert Storm.

The 18-year veteran of the Army National Guard said things are okay with him for now.

He also said he wanted to thank the people who have sent items to help with the schools.

"I would like to thank the following for donating clothes, shoes, toys, school supplies and candies for the Iraqi children," he said.

"These items were given to the Iraqi orphanages and elementary schools during my visit."

They include Southside Baptist Church, Jo Shephard's fourth grade class and Mary Christ's second and third grade classes and the teachers and personnel at R. L. Austin Elementary School.