Yesterday morning I got to the band hall early with a couple of Soldiers, and we got the truck loaded and headed out to the place to turn in our chem-bio protective stuff. That went ok – not quite as smooth as we had hoped, but it’s done so that’s what matters. After we got back, I bought Green Beans for 2 of the 4 Soldiers that went with (the other 2 didn’t want any). Then it was home to get the last few things that I needed to mail and I headed to the Post Office to take care of those. And then I did computer stuff and stitched. I took a break for mail call formation and then back to stitching until dinner with some of the guys from the BQ and then home for more stitching before I headed out to salsa night. It was a lot of fun as always, but it was sad in a way as well. It’s always sad when you have to say goodbye to good friends, but I’m also happy knowing that I’m going home to my guys soon.
This morning I slept in until about 10 and finally got out of bed about 1030. I stitched for a while this morning and then about 1140 or so I headed up to the band hall – stopped at Green Beans on my way for a cranberry-orange muffin for sustenance. There were 9 of us from the band and we headed over to Camp Slayer to tour the Victory Over America and Victory over Iran Palaces, see one of the last remaining murals of Sadam Hussein, and tour the Baath Party house. It was eye-opening to learn about the history and the stories and everything. All I can say after the whole thing is WOW. Some stuff I knew already, but I learned a lot as well.
Some things I learned.. . . Sadam was psycho (of course, we all knew that). He took money that was being sent to Iraq for food, medical supplies, etc., and used it to build the Victory Over America Palace. He rerouted water from local farmers to "his" areas and then told the people that the Americans must be stealing it. In this desert area, water means power, and he had a lot of water. He was a germophobe. The traditional Arabic way of greeting is a kiss on the cheek, but he wouldn’t have any of that and his people had to greet him in his armpit area. YUCK! He showered like 4 or 5 times a day. In the VOA Palace, he was having 2 elevators built – his own personal one and then one for everyone else. He was very proud of himself – his initials are everywhere so that he would never be forgotten. And when we got to the Baath Party house, we learned that he was a cheapskate and all the nice palaces and everything were a facade. Everything that looks like gold is not gold. It’s aluminum painted with gold paint. And the workmanship – wow. Bricks just kind of thrown in every which way. Steps in the palace were not even – built like that on purpose so that if the palace ever came under attack, Sadam and his people would know the unevenness but the "bad guys" wouldn’t and they would either fall off the steps (no railings and HUGE drops down several floors) or fall down the steps or be slowed up. It was kind of scary going up steps from the 3rd floor to the roof and the steps were only about 2 feet wide and no railing.
More stuff . . . Flintstone Village was built for his grandkids. The Fintstones were Sadam’s favorite cartoon so that’s why he called it that. But why did he build it – complete with bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, servants, and an elevator??? Because he had just killed the kids’ dads because they disagreed – his sons-in-law. Sorry I just killed your dad – here’s a fun place to live and play. The Perfume Palace was the brothel for the Baath Party members. And in the lake (one of many man-made lakes in the area) are little islands with little houses on them. That’s where the Baath Party members could go to "hang out" (I’m sure they paid a visit to the brothel first and were doing more than "hanging out" at the little houses on the islands). There’s a 2 story house in the lake (connected with a footbridge to the palace) for Sadam’s mothers-in-law and I think his wives, too. I can’t remember for sure. There was a cemetery near where the palace is and Sadam didn’t like that group of people that had their people buried there. So when he made the lakes, he had to put all the dirt somewhere and he piled it all on top of the cemetery.
And now for the Baath Party house. It wasn’t a house to live in. It was where the Baath Party member had meetings and stuff. That’s where the war began. We dropped a Tomahawk missile and it hit in the auditorium where they were either watching, just finished watching, or were about to watch Pretty Woman (the found the film during the cleanup). There were 250 people in that room and they recovered 50 bodies. The others were incinerated when the missile hit. You can see all the damage and there are still some chairs and stuff in there. Then there was the dining room. Another missile-hit room. This room had the worlds longest chandelier – it went all the way around the room. Some of it is still up now, but part is dangling because of the missile. The conference room has part of a huge conference table and a few chairs in it. And then the pool room. The pool never had water in it. But if you disagreed with Sadam, he’d take you to the pool – and shoot you. There’s still a blood stain on the side of the pool, and it has been confirmed by a forensics guy that has taken the tour recently.
I took over 100 pictures today during the tour, and hopefully tomorrow I’ll get them up on my Facebook. I’ll post a link to them once I get them up and you’ll be able to see a lot of what I’ve been talking about tonight.
Once we got back from the tour, I stitched for a while more before heading to my last chapel service here in Iraq. I’m glad that I decided not to sing with Joyful Noez tonight (even though i still wore my shirt). I made it through the first song ok, but the second song started with RW singing the first verse solo and I started thinking about how much I’m going to miss him – his awesome hugs, his prayers, his HUGE love for Christ – and the tears started. I cried through every song for the rest of the service. And it was an awesome sermon as well. After the benediction, JN always does one song from the beginning of the service again as everyone is leaving. Well, L, the other female vocalist, motions me to come up and join them. So I do and she hands me a mike and puts her arm around me. I cried while I sang, but I did get to sing with them one last time after all. After many hugs and tears, we headed to the chow hall for dinner and ice cream. And then more hugs – but I think I was out of tears. I called Ryan & Robbie and Mom & Dad and then headed home. My country night/salsa night friend DV stopped by and I gave him the baby blanket I made for his daughter and he gave me a card and I cried more. And then more hugs and more tears.
Ok, this post has gotten really long, so I’m going to do my crunches for the day and go to bed.
Today’s High: 78