Special Reports

Soldier carries his security blanket to Iraq

Spec. Louis Catalino brought a security blanket with him to Iraq.

It’s the Army blanket his great-grandfather gave him, adorned with unit patches that he collected during World War II. It's one of many things the Boise soldier carries to remind him of his family’s tradition of fighting wars.

From World War II to Iraq, members of Catalinos immediate and extended families have been to them all."It's pretty wild, almost all of them have been in combat, and none of them have gotten killed," he said.

Catalino's grandfather on his mother's side also served in WWII, and Catalino pinned his silver paratrooper wings from WWII on the body armor he’s wearing in Iraq.

"I bring his wings everywhere with me," he said.

Catalino said his family history made joining the National Guard an easy choice, and as a child he dreamed of flying after watching Air Force jets flying out of the Mountain Home Air Force Base.

He hopes to make that dream come true. Catalino is applying to become a warrant officer and attend flight school to fly Apache helicopters.

He hopes to be accepted after his current Guard deployment in Iraq ends.

"I love the service and I love to fly," he said. "What could be better than flying a helicopter for the Army?"

— Roger Phillips

I’ve written before about how the children here always seem to smile, even in the midst of privation and squalor.

At one point we were loading into the vehicles to leave from patrolling in Kirkuk and a young boy with deep-set eyes and a tired expression, peered in to the window of the Humvee at me gesturing for money. I shrugged apologetically.If I had given him money-I would have been swarmed by others. He pointed to his mouth. Was he hungry? His eyes were piercing. I lifted the camera to take his photo, he held out his arms, his expression didn't change, this boy didn't smile.

When I pulled the camera down he nodded, he thumped his puffed-out chest with his two small fists and turned and strutted down the road arms swinging at his side. Now he was smiling.

I watched him as we drove away, tears burning in my eyes. Even if it was all I could do, I guess taking his picture was enough. It made him smile.

— Kim Hughes