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Images of hope

Wednesday, Sean Metroka wants to show you a side of Iraq he says the 24-hour news channels won’t.

He wants to show you the people who graciously accepted food from American soldiers on a convoy through the outskirts of Baghdad, the girls who eagerly gravitated toward young Marine women in uniform, and the teeming street fairs that lined neighborhoods outside Saddam City, the Baghdad slum named for the deposed Iraqi leader.

He wants you to see the face of a changing nation that is pleased with its liberation, yet questions its place in the world.



Marine Corps Col. Sean Metroka, who served for several months as coordinator of offensive attacks for his unit, will bring these images to the Grass Valley Elks Lodge in a free slide show.

Metroka said he hopes to give locals a window on a world many never saw.




“I want people to get a more accurate depiction of the Iraqi people and how they live,” he said. “The news portrays (the war) as, ‘what happened today, and who died today.’ What’s really happening is the rapid reconstruction of a wonderful country.”

Hundreds of slides are stuffed into Metroka’s laptop these days. And while many of them portray images of war, including soldiers resting behind bunkers and the smoke from burning oil barrels filling the desert sky, Metroka’s cache of photos reveals a people both curious and slightly wary of their new bedfellows.

One of Metroka’s slides is of the village of Hillah, 80 kilometers southwest of Baghdad, and the residents’ joy over receiving free water for the first time in years. The village had been forced to pay for water or draw it from nearly dry canals for years because of their opposition to the ruling Ba’ath Party, Metroka said. Other slides show Metroka and his mates playing cards with local residents, and pictures of a family that led Metroka and his fellow Marines to the hospital where captured POW Jessica Lynch was being treated.

Metroka also took slides of animals kept by Saddam’s two sons, Uday and Qusay, of a replica of the Northern Gate of Babylon built in 605 B.C., and of a mass grave where nearly 15,000 corpses littered a desert road in Mahaweel, Iraq.

“By far, there was no question that was the toughest thing to see,” he said.

The war continues today, and Metroka acknowledges that some of the Iraqi people question American occupation of a country almost a year after it began.

Metroka is left with one indelible impression of Iraq he hopes local residents will realize Wednesday.

“They were incredible people.”

___

KNOW AND GO:

WHAT: “Iraq, Through a Soldier’s Eyes”

WHEN: 6:30 p.m., Wednesday

WHERE: Grass Valley Elks Lodge, 109 S. School St.

ADMISSION: Free, on a first-come, first-served basis. Those who attend may bring a gift that will be sent to troops stationed overseas.


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