Just As I Thought

Operation Iraqi Children

Remember last weekend I told you about helping out on a PSA for “Operation Iraqi Children” with Laura Hillenbrand and Gary Sinise? Well, they got a mention in the Post today:

“The nice thing about this program is, whether you support the war or not, you can support the kids in Iraq,” says Laura Hillenbrand, the District resident famed for writing “Seabiscuit.” She has teamed with actor Gary Sinise, a staunch USO supporter who has twice visited Iraq, to win hearts and minds there with a school-supply donation program.

When the first box of supplies arrived last week with the help of U.S. troops, an Iraqi e-mailed Hillenbrand to say, “Some of the girls and boys were dancing because they were very happy, and some of them singing.”

Twenty-five boxes of pencils, crayons, paper, notebooks and soccer balls were donated by families whose children attend the same school as Sinise’s in Southern California. Billions of dollars have been spent on reconstruction, including school repairs, but many Iraqi kids and teachers still lack basics. Hillenbrand and Sinise have set up OperationIraqiChildren.org, with details on how Americans can help.

Copies of “Seabiscuit” are also being donated — thanks to Hillenbrand, her Arabic-language publisher and Thoroughbred Charities of America. (She will receive no royalties.)

“Horse racing has an ancient tradition in the Arab world,” she said, “and horse racing is coming back in Iraq because Uday and Qusay are dead and they fixed all the races.”

From a friend who served in Iraq, Army Lt. Col. Sherman McGrew — great-grandson of Seabiscuit’s owner — she learned that the book’s themes of hope and persistence seemed to resonate. “These are the things the Iraqis need to draw on as they emerge from tyranny,” she says.

Sinise said the USO trips motivated him to help: “I saw the interaction of the kids with the troops and how grateful they were and how loving they were. There are small victories happening every single day.”

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