George Bailey still moves U.S.
       In our fast-moving world, few of us stop to give thanks and appreciate the blessings we have or understand the contributions we have made to others. Christmas in Iraq has forced us to appreciate those things and people! Watching George Bailey realize he has "A Wonderful Life" brought a few tears to the eyes of all of us last night. We couldn't help but view our lives over the past year and the things for which we should be thankful.
       I am thankful that my sons have opportunities. They go to schools with real floors instead of dirt and leak proof roofs instead of mud. We have teachers with credentials to instruct. Our kids have paper and pencils instead of a plywood square painted black and chalk.
       Our government may not address all our needs, but it doesn't prey on individuals. We don't have to bribe the substation operator to turn our electricity back on. We can sleep at night knowing our police will protect us instead of robbing us. We don't have to buy our food on the black market. We are free to move about the world, as we want. We can practice our religion with out someone bombing our church or killing our priests. We can criticize those who govern us with out fear of having our family tortured and murdered.
        Most of us here in Iraq who work directly with Iraqis know how much we have touched the lives of millions. After removing the past government, we have rebuilt more than 1,500 schools and provided levels of electricity and clean water not seen here before. People have the right to demonstrate and are actually working toward self-determination. We have given a downtrodden people hope for the future.
       We are thankful for the people in the United States who have made our work here a little easier. Children and adults send greetings to soldiers they never met. Organizations and schools adopt Iraqi schools. Family and friends send more food and personal items than we could consume in 10 years here. The American who sent us thousands of soccer balls, school supplies, vegetable seeds, medical supplies, toys and other things helped us win hearts and minds among a doubting population.
       We here in Iraq are thankful that we live in a country that allows us to contribute to world leadership. We in Iraq would rather be home with our families this Christmas, but we all volunteered for this job. If the American soldier or the American people were to star in the Frank Capra movie, few of us could fully understand the impact our efforts have had on the people of the world. As we all watch the reruns of "It's A Wonderful Life," we see ourselves and are reminded of our value to our families, our country and the world.

LTC Randy C. Fritz
Christmas Day 2003
Balad, Iraq

Randy Fritz, an El Paso County resident, is a civil affairs and medical service corps officer working at HACC-N, the Humanitarian Action Coordination Center for the eight northern governates west and north of Baghdad. The 10-person HACC is involved in the rebuilding of Iraq, including schools, water treatment plants, wells, waste water treatment plants, road projects and an agricultural cooperative.