Shine with a morning cup of coffee at Camp Liberty, just outside
Baghdad International Airport.
In central Baghdad,
Capt. Jonathan Shine with two Iraqi children who approached
a U.S. Army patrol to play and ask for candy.
November 16, 2005:
great day to be a soldier’ Army Capt.
Jonathan Shine ’98 on referendum day in Iraq
by Army Capt. Jonathan A. Shine ’98
I am in the middle of my second tour of service in Iraq with the
U.S. Army. Last Saturday [Oct. 15] I had the unique opportunity
to participate, in a small way, in the Iraqi constitutional referendum,
and I wanted to share a little “from the ground level”
about that day. I spent the day with one of my Personal Security
Detail teams, escorting a senior U.S. Army officer around to various
polling places (I was mainly responsible for an Iraqi general who
rode with us for the day) throughout Baghdad. We went all
over the city, which was shockingly quiet all day – in large
part, I think, because there was no civilian vehicular traffic allowed
at all. At every stop, we got to see hundreds of people walking
into the polling stations and coming out with huge grins on their
faces as they held up purple-stained index fingers, indicating they’d
voted. Most had their children with them; they also had stained
fingers and would run up to show them to me and ask for candy.
We draw large crowds of kids whenever we stop, so as always I had
great fun teaching them to “give me five,” giving them
piggyback rides, and trying to communicate.
At one stop, an old woman in full veil approached our patrol on
her way into the polling site, making all a little nervous (we were
most concerned about the possibility of suicide bombers coming into
the polling stations). She went right up to the general’s
aide, pulled out a pink gerbera daisy, and handed it to him with
a big, toothless smile! He wore it all day in his body armor
vest, and she too made a point of showing us her purple finger when
she came back out.
At another polling place I was playing with a group of
older children who wanted to practice their English on me (“Do
you like apple? Do you like banana? Do you like Baghdad?”). The
mother of one little girl called her over to their yard, whispered
to her, and then went inside the house. The girl came over
to me, grabbed my hand, and started to pull me toward the house. When
I got near their fence, the mother came back outside carrying a
little baby girl. She gave me a big smile, and let me hold
the baby and tell her what lovely children she had (at least I hope
she got that general idea, anyway). It was really touching.
In the end, it was just a great day to be a soldier in Iraq.
I haven’t seen any news to know what the so-called insurgents
are saying about why they chose not to attack on that day, but I
do know that voter turnout was even higher than in the January elections,
which I think took great courage given the threat. I know
that there will continue to be lots of debate about why we came
here and when we should leave. Seeing all those happy people
with ink stains on their fingers and tears in their eyes, there
was no doubt in my mind about the value of the sacrifice, even if
it is unequally borne by a relative few.
I’m desperately looking forward to coming home to
my little family soon (Ashley P. Shine ’97 and baby Bennett,
born in April – three months after I arrived in Iraq), but
what a privilege to be able to serve here at this time. Thanks
to all the Princetonians who have prayed for and supported us.
CAPT. JONATHAN A. SHINE ’98
In January Jonathan Shine returned to Iraq, where he commands
an interrogation facility and a field artillery rocket battery of
about 130 soldiers and provides security escorts for senior Army
and embassy officials throughout Baghdad. In 2003, he took part
in the initial invasion of Iraq with the 3d Infantry Division, coordinating
the operations of a rocket/missile battalion during the attack from
Kuwait to Baghdad. He has served as an Army field artillery officer