dangerous job in Iraq
from Arkansas flew home last week from Iraq for a couple of weeks of
+++ They got on an airplane in Kuwait and
flew to Ireland and then went on to Dallas, where they caught a commuter
flight to Little Rock. Specialist Jordan Lackie of DeValls Bluff was
one of the soldiers flying home. He's only 18, but he's a big fellow,
and he was the only soldier who didn't seem tired.
+++ He joined the Army in June 2003, when
he was 17, and was sent to Kuwait a few months later, but he couldn't
go to Iraq until last May, when he turned 18, the minimum age for combat.
"I may be the youngest soldier in all of Iraq," said Lackie,
who has one of the most dangerous jobs over there: Armed with a machine
gun, he looks out of the top of a Humvee that leads convoys of trucks
delivering supplies or prisoners. His assignments are more realistic
than the video games other teenagers are playing back home.
+++ "There's a Humvee in front and
back," Lackie explained. "They're heavily guarded with machine
guns." His job is to look out for explosives in the road. When
he sees a suspicious object a package or a dead animal that often
has explosives inside he calls out for bomb specialists with
robots that diffuse the bombs. "If I see an IED (improvised explosive
device), I kick the driver," Lackie said. "They bring out
the robots and look through it for us."
+++ Lackie also rides in front of trucks
with his machine gun, an M-249 that shoots 800 rounds a minute. He wears
body armor and a special helmet. He needs that protection because violence
could break out at any moment. His convoy has been shot at several times,
but he's never been wounded. "You go through a town with 5,000
people, and they all want to kill you," the teenager said. "We
always ride out during the day. I work seven days a week."
+++ He's not complaining. He was looking
for adventure when he signed up after the U.S. invaded Iraq, and he's
found plenty of excitement since. "I volunteered. I'm not afraid,"
said the young soldier, who is a member of the 1115 Transportation Co.,
39th Support Battalion. "I figured it would be an experience,"
he said. "It's a whole new world over there." He's stationed
at Camp Taji, just north of Baghdad. The only time it gets boring is
when he's not riding in convoys and instead does guard duty in a tower
overlooking the camp, which has about 20,000 soldiers.
+++ That's the least dangerous job he's
had in Iraq. No enemy insurgents have tried to sneak into Camp Taji
lately, unlike at Mosul, where a suicide bomber blew himself up and
killed several U.S. soldiers the day Lackie was flying home. Lackie
said he's not afraid to die. "I'm not married," he said. "I
don't have any kids." At Camp Taji, fathers and sons are stationed
together, and so are mothers and daughters and even brothers.
+++ The facilities are great at the camp
and the food is good, and Burger King, Pizza Hut and Subway have just
opened up there. Alcohol is strictly forbidden in Iraq, which is a Moslem
country. "I work out in the gym three hours a day and then go to
sleep," Lackie said. He hopes to come home for good next March,
unless his tour is extended, which could happen as the military finds
itself stretched thin and has asked soldiers to stay longer. "We'll
probably be there for another 10 years and spend $200 billion,"
Lackie predicted. The U.S. will probably spend several times more than
that, although the true cost of the Iraqi war, in terms of lives and
money, is yet to be determined.
+++ While home, Lackie has been hanging
out with his friends, eating out at restaurants and having a good time.
He celebrated Christmas with his extended family, which includes, besides
his parents, Joe and Tammie Lackie of DuValls Bluff, his grandparents,
Joe and Maxine Lackie of Lonoke, his grandmother, Betty Adams of Jacksonville
and his grandfather John Davis of DuValls Bluff.
+++ The young soldier went to Little Rock
airport on Tuesday to meet other soldiers who had flown in from Iraq.
They, too, will stay here for two weeks and then head back to Iraq.
Lackie goes back next week. He's savoring every moment while he's on
seek more openness on pardons
you talk to prosecutors around the state, many of them will tell you they're
unhappy that Gov. Huckabee pardons criminals without letting law-enforcement
officials or victims' families know why he's doing it, as he's required
by law. [FULL
prosecutors go on offensive
trade jabs over sentencing, pardoning of killers, other thugs
prosecutors around the state are upset with Gov. Huckabee for grant- ing
clemency to violent criminals, but he is blaming the prosecutors for often
not seeking the maximum penalty and keeping felons locked up longer.
B.B. goes home then to funeral
King didn't seem his usual old self last weekend when he was performing
in his hometown of Indianola, Miss.
___ He put on two fine shows in one evening,
but he seemed a bit distracted. [FULL
Clintons in lovefest with Bush
there's anything more unappealing than watching politicians mud wrestle,
it's watching them pretend they like each other.
insincerity, Presi-dent Bush praised his predecessor on Monday during an
unveiling of the Clintons' official (and utterly mediocre) White House portraits.
World-class blues played near here
couple of great blues musicians showed up at Sticky Fingerz in Little Rock
on Thursday night.
___ Michael Burks, probably Arkansas' most talented
young bluesman, dropped in to catch Deborah Coleman and her band and he
was impressed. [FULL
Reagan had won in '76
of words and thousands of images have filled newspapers and television screens
since the passing of Ronald Reagan on Saturday.
colleagues, politicians and scholars have discussed every facet of his remarkable
life: How he started out poor, became a Holly-wood star, found a second
career on television, then a third as a corporate spokesman, and yet another,
more spectacular career as a politician.
His life has been thoroughly examined this week, but one crucial period
and its consequences are virtually overlooked: His losing out to President
Ford for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 1976, which,
it could be argued, helped the Soviets stay in power for several more years.
These Vets couldn't go to unveiling
Albert Jonikas couldn't make it to the dedication of the World War II memorial
over the weekend.
an 84-year-old veteran of the Second World War who saw action in the Pacific
- Iwo Jima, Saipan, Okinawa, which was near where the Japanese surrendered
- but he doesn't get around much anymore. [FULL