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Back from Iraq

May 05, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Williamsport native U.S. Army Spc. Patrick Meyers stopped by Western Heights Middle School on Tuesday to visit students who wrote 300 letters of support to soldiers in his unit while they were in Iraq.

"It was just unreal. All the letters and the things they were saying, it was overwhelming," Meyers, 22, said.

Meyers, who is stationed with a signal battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., ended his one-year deployment to Iraq last month and is home for a visit before returning to Fort Bragg on Friday.

Using a table in the school's cafeteria, Meyers displayed war souvenirs to teach the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade students about the war in Iraq and the Islamic culture.

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"I saw the way people lived and I saw the way Iraqis were deprived," he said.

Meyers showed the students Iraqi currency, an Iraqi flag and an Arabic architecture textbook that he said he found in an abandoned house.

Sixth-graders Kara Billmoyer and Kristen Mitchell volunteered to try on Iraqi and Bulgarian military uniforms as Meyers explained the significance of the Iraqi headdress and the uniform design.

Meyers said he obtained the Bulgarian uniform through swaps with Bulgarian soldiers who also were stationed in Iraq. The Iraqi military clothing and other items were obtained from captured Iraqi soldiers and purchased from Iraqi citizens, he said.

"They dress different from us," said Kara, who said she was surprised to learn that soldiers worked so hard.

Kristen said she enjoyed sending letters to Meyers' unit, and that it was great to see Meyers face-to-face.

"I thought it was a good experience. It's like our heroes are saving us and fighting for our freedom," Kristen said.

Meyers told the approximately 86 students and teachers that he hoped stories from his experience would provide a personal image of Iraqi culture and a more humanitarian view of why U.S. soldiers are there.

He told students that Iraqi citizens are rebuilding their lives following the fall of Saddam Hussein. Many poverty-stricken Iraqis who lived in mud shacks now have access to luxuries like running water, electricity and paved roads, thanks to the U.S. military presence, he said.

Students said they were impressed with the souvenirs and some asked questions such as, "Were you afraid?"

Meyers talked about times when he was afraid, but he said the students' letters encouraged him to do the best job he could, knowing that people at home were counting on the men and women stationed in Iraq.

Meyers' mother and stepfather, Frank and Myra Nuice, live in Boonsboro. His father, Harry Meyers, lives in Williamsport.

Staff writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

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