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5/17/04 - SPIRIT OF AMERICA - 2004-05-17


President George W. Bush says that those responsible for the abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq will be brought to justice. The abuses, says Mr. Bush, "are abhorrent and they do not represent America":

“It is very important for the people of the Middle East to realize that the troops we have overseas are decent, honorable citizens who care about freedom and peace, [who] are working daily in Iraq to improve the lives of the Iraqi citizens, and these actions of a few people do not reflect the nature of the men and women who serve our country.”

More than one-hundred-thirty-thousand Americans are serving in Iraq. They are doing the jobs they were sent to do -- restoring civil society, building hospitals and schools, and providing other essential services.

The American people are helping, too, through private, non-profit, charitable organizations like Spirit of America. Founded in 2003 by Los Angeles businessman Jim Hake, Spirit of America helps Americans in uniform serving abroad to improve the lives of people in need. Hake was inspired by the work of U.S. Special Forces Sergeant Jay Smith.

While serving in Afghanistan, Sergeant Smith and his comrades built a schoolhouse for the remote village of Orgun-e. They helped village children establish a baseball team, with athletic equipment sent by the wives and families of U.S. servicemen. The Afghan villagers showed their gratitude when al-Qaida terrorists began rocket attacks on the Americans. The villages formed a community watch to help stop the attacks. "The things we did to help people in Orgun-e literally saved lives," said Sergeant Smith. "Theirs and ours."

Spirit of America donors enabled U.S. Army Captain Kevin Curseaden to provide musical instruments to children in the Iraqi-Kurdish villages of Byara and Khmormai. They made it possible for U.S. Marine Corporal Youness Hansali to give dental kits to the children of Al-Hillah, in southern Iraq. U.S. Marines are helping Iraqis in Al Anbar province to equip seven Iraqi television stations serving cities including Fallujah and Ramadi. Americans supported the Marines' request by sending more than one-million-five-hundred thousand dollars in addition to state-of-the-art digital equipment. "It is essential," said one Marine, "that the Iraqi people understand our sincerest desire to help them rebuild their country and lay the foundation for a viable, free, democratic society."

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