Sunday, October 18, 2009

Soldier-mom Home from Iraq

Here’s an encouraging story I ran across in the Dearborn Press & Guide. We at DU have known all along that many of Dearborn’s Middle Easterners and Muslims have served our country in the armed forces, some of them heroically. It’s not reported much. The media seem to prefer the simpler and less accurate story line that all Arab-Americans are opposed to what we’re trying to do in the Middle East.

Anyway, I said these stories are too rare, and here’s one:

Soldier-mom visits Kinloch classroom

Wednesday, October 14, 2009
By Sean Delaney, Press & Guide Newspapers

DEARBORN HEIGHTS -- It’s been said the power of the written word can move mountains, but it did something even more spectacular last Wednesday when it reunited a mother and her son at Kinloch Elementary School following a six-month separation.

That’s how long former Dearborn and current Dearborn Heights resident Maya Allen was stationed for her third tour of duty in Iraq — a country more than 6,000 miles away from her home — and her son — in Dearborn Heights.

“It’s not easy being away from my son, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to protect our country,” said Allen, who has served for five years as a military adviser and translator for the U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq.

It’s a job she loves, but one that’s kept her away from her son for months at a time. On Oct. 7, the two were reunited for the first time in six months when Allen came to the school to read a story to Susie Krupa’s second grade class, of which her son is a member.

“I really missed her,” Hussan Al-Idani said after wrapping his arms around his mom’s waist. He held on to her tightly as Allen read from a book about the U.S. Army while relating her own experiences there.

“I joined the Army because I’m very proud to be a part of the military,” she said. “As an Iraqi-American, it was tough, but my father always encouraged me.”

He continued to do so even as others told her it wasn’t a woman’s place to join the military.

“In the Middle East, women are often sitting at home — it’s definitely a man’s society,” Allen said. “Because I am an Iraqi-American, it was against my culture to join, but my father always encouraged me to do what I want. Now I get to be a part of the change that’s happening there.”

Allen told the students Iraqi women — who were once confined to their homes or forced to do menial jobs — are now joining the local police force and the military.

“I feel really proud and excited when I see that,” she said. “It was a hard decision, but every time I see a child see a child smile I know I’ve made the right decision.”

Allen saw plenty of smiles Wednesday when she entered Krupa’s classroom dressed in full uniform. For many students, it was the first time they’d seen a soldier anywhere but on television.

“Unfortunately, the media exaggerates many of the things we do,” she said. “We’ve faced a lot in the last few years, but some of my proudest moments are giving gifts to Iraqi children.”

She said many children and their families suffered under the regime of Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq.

“I lost two uncles and my oldest brother to him,” Allen said, declining to discuss the specifics of the war or the political debate surrounding it.

Instead, she told the students about the comradery that exists between her fellow soldiers.

“The soldiers there are like my extended family,” she said.

Allen also touched on how life in America differs from life in the Middle East.

“We, in Iraq, have many strict traditions,” she said. “I like it better (in America).”

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