Individual soldiers are changing lives for better in Iraq

A much needed heartwarming story on progress in Iraq, something we don’t hear about near enough these days:

During the Iran-Iraq War, an Iraqi tank commander tried to recover his senses after an Iranian shell had destroyed his tank. His fellow soldiers were dead, and, realizing that his own legs were gone, the soldier dragged himself out of the remains of the tank. Before he lost consciousness, he managed to tie tourniquets around the stumps of his legs.

More than 20 years later, this Iraqi man is living in a veterans’ community near Baghdad, where he recently met two American soldiers who would change his life and the lives of many others in Iraq with similar disabilities.

Sgt. Christopher Cummings has been an orthotic technician for 12 years in Fort Lauderdale. His specialty is making orthopedic braces and prosthetic devices. As a member of the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion, he deployed to Iraq in January as part of a civil-affairs team led by Capt. Matt Pedersen, an Oviedo resident and member of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Cummings knew he would find a need for his profession in Iraq, but he wasn’t sure how to put his skills to work. He lacked the contacts, and he still had to perform other duties as a member of his team. Fortunately, once it was discovered that he had the ability to make specialized devices for missing arms and legs, Army officers helped him focus that ability on helping some of the many disabled people in Iraq.

Cummings formed a unique partnership with another medical practitioner, Capt. Steve Lindsley of the 112th Military Police Battalion of the Mississippi National Guard. In space donated by the First Cavalry Division, the two men built a workshop. Both soldiers continued to work their regular schedules at other Army duties but spent their own time helping disabled Iraqis. Their efforts have become a significant civil-affairs project for their own units and for the 350th Civil Affairs Command.

Cummings and Lindsley began working with the Al-Wasity Hospital in the Karada District of Baghdad. On their first visit to the hospital, they found two young men who would become beneficiaries of the soldiers’ expertise. One was only 15 years old and lost his right leg in a hit-and-run accident two years ago. The other was a 20-year-old man who lost his right leg to cancer as an infant.

More: Iraqi women try to help Americans see the country through their eyes

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