Safaa Joda was a 14-year-old boy I met in 2003 when I served in Iraq. One of our missions involved spending a lot of time in his neighborhood for several months. During that time he taught me a lot of useful Arabic, and we became good friends.
Since then, Safaa and I have been able to maintain our friendship through emails, occasional phone calls and, more recently, through Facebook. In the past five years, I rejoiced with him when he was accepted to medical school to become a doctor, and I wept with him when his mother died from wounds she received during a terrorist attack.
He earned his medical degree and is now interning as a doctor in an Iraqi hospital. He sees firsthand the pain and suffering of the Iraqi people as once again violence escalates within his country.
Photo courtesy of SAFAA?JODA
Dr. Safaa Joda, right, works with a fellow doctor at an Iraqi hospital in January.
Here in America, we hear the reports on TV or read them in the newspaper, but it is still very easy for us to think "It's a shame, but that's all the way over there - it's not our problem anymore."
My friend Safaa sent this message to me through Facebook on Wednesday:
"My friend, I'd like to give this message to the world to explain what we're suffering from, I would ask if you could share it on your newspaper ...
"Remember! Whenever you're praying at night. Remember! Millions who chew the rock as bread, they've walked on the wounds' bridge and still walk. They wear their own skin and die with dignity.
"Remember! Before you're falling in deep sleep, could someone sleep at night if his country has been slaughtered? My heart is on the angels' wound, I usually see them coming back from schools. The churches and minarets kissed their foreheads.
"I have written this appeal for you: My homeland is wounded behind the terrorism siege, every day tens of our people fall in death. For how long this destruction? Really, for how long this destruction? Have your consciousnesses dried? Doesn't this appeal affect you?! Even if your consciousnesses have dried, the innocents' tears have not!"
I can't speak for all Americans; I can only speak for myself. But as a veteran of the Iraq War, I find I am unable to view the renewed violence in that nation as anything less than "our problem." At the same time, I am depressingly aware of the fact that the solution is not within my power alone. My heart aches for my friend, his family and his people.
Stay safe, Safaa. Fe aman Allah (May God protect you).
Managing editor Frank Jost is an Army Reserve veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Among other duties, he performed security and peacekeeping operations in An Nasiriyah, As Samawah and Baghdad, Iraq. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.