AL ASAD, Iraq -- Iraqi workers here assisted Marines, sailors and American civilians with restoring a legendary site April 16. The foundations of the site, of significant religious importance to the Iraqis, are rumored to be almost 4,000 years old.
The restoration project also included cleaning up a military cemetery and an oasis that is rumored to have ties to Abraham, who plays a significant role in the history of three major faiths.
Chief Warrant Officer L. Scott Reinhardt, Al Asad Regional Police and Border Patrol Academy director, from Tappahannock, Va., told some of the workers at the academy about the project and a large number of them volunteered to assist.
The intent was to show the Iraqis here that Americans respect their religious beliefs, but it also gave all of the volunteers a chance to take their minds off of the war.
“We’re here to help this country get on its feet,” said Cmdr. Ron Brown, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) chaplain and native of Hayesville, N.C. “If we’re going to win their hearts and minds we need to respect their religions beliefs and respect the dead. We are going to leave one day and the Iraqi people will talk about how we respected their holy site.”
According to Brown, the cemetery is a burial ground for Iraqi soldiers killed during the war between Iraq and Iran that lasted for the better part of the 1980s.
Lieutenant Cmdr. Terry W. Eddinger, Marine Aircraft Group 26 (Reinforced) command chaplain from Winston-Salem, N.C., said an Arab legend says a regional leader ran Abraham out of a kingdom south of here because he taught monotheism.
As Abraham fled, he came to the oasis in the palm grove here and refreshed himself by drinking and bathing in the water. Because of this, some of the locals believe the oasis has healing power.
Iraqis attending or working at the academy here sometimes sit by the oasis and reflect on its significance. They also say their prayers in the ruins of a building nearby where they believe Abraham spent the night.
The legend cannot be proven, but Eddinger said the Euphrates River, located only a few kilometers away, was used as a major travel route in ancient times and that a biblical passage claims Abraham did come this way at least once when he traveled with his family from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran, what is now Syria.
Brown said the organizers of the project were Brig. Gen. Robert E. Milstead Jr., 2nd MAW (Fwd) commanding general; Col. Kent W. Bradford, 2nd Marine Division liaison officer to the 2nd MAW (Fwd); Reinhardt and himself.
Working side-by-side, Iraqis and American service members and civilians here accomplished their goal in less time than expected, helping make a better Iraq for future generations.
- For more information about the events reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at email@example.com -