Amid the chaos that defines their daily lives, children in Iraq get to experience some moments of pleasure — thanks to folks from Tioga County.
Colin Williams, a United States Army captain who is a native of St. Patrick’s Parish in Owego, has instituted a successful drive to secure such items as school supplies, soccer balls, individually wrapped candies and small toys for the children of Al-Romadi, Iraq. The effort is coordinated through Williams’ parents, Gary and Linda, who have received a strong response since a notice was first placed in the Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick’s parish bulletin earlier this fall.
“We’ve been just overwhelmed with generosity. We have a whole bag of soccer balls in the living room,” Linda Williams said Nov. 22 of a recent donation from the Tioga County Youth Soccer Association. She and Gary added that notebooks, which are especially needed, have come in great supply along with pencils, erasers and crayons. Cash donations, meanwhile, have been put toward shipping costs.
Colin Williams serves with the Army’s Second Brigade Combat Team. He is a civil affairs officer, assisting residents with their basic living conditions in Al-Romadi, which is located about 75 miles west of Baghdad. However, conflict has often been high between U.S. troops and resistance groups during the U.S.-led effort to establish a new government in Iraq. The intensity of fighting in Al-Romadi has, at times, forced Colin to leave the donated goods in storage until it’s safe enough to hand-deliver them to the civilian youths.
When those items are distributed, they are eagerly welcomed. “The kids mob him, asking for candy or toys,” Linda Williams said, while her husband noted that 43 percent of the area’s residents are under the age of 15.
Colin, 28, graduated from West Point in 1998. After serving stateside for several years he was deployed to Korea a year and a half ago, and then to Iraq this past August. He occasionally communicates with his parents by e-mail and phone.
“A lot of people may not support the reason we’re over there,” Linda said, referring to the U.S. government’s policy of a continued military presence in Iraq. “(But) I think people want to support our troops, and (the collection) is the way they can.”
Gary and Linda said they hope for Colin to return stateside by this summer. In the meantime, the collection effort begun by Colin will continue.
“The need isn’t going to go away,” Gary said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Those who wish to contribute items for the Iraqi children may contact Gary and Linda Williams at 607/687-9920 or firstname.lastname@example.org.