If you’re an American soldier, you never have pay cab fare again in the Kurdish region of Iraq. I was there recently in the Kurdish city of Slemani, where I taught Kurds and their Arab classmates, who have been granted safe haven there from the strife found in the rest of Iraq.

While taking a cab with a local friend, we passed a little park. It was a few acres of green and food concessions where families enjoyed bouncy houses and small carnival rides.

I asked my friend about the park; I am a tourist at heart and need to see and know my world. She said it was the place Saddam would bury Kurds alive to terrorize them and their families into obedience. It was the first time in my life I personally saw such evil. My friend said after “the Americans came and helped us in ’91,” they made this place into a park because “nobody could think of a better use for so much open space.”

When we arrived at our destination, the cab driver refused to take my money because I was an American. In fact, the driver showed me a worn, gray American flag patch he got as a gift from an American soldier he worked with years before as an interpreter. After several unsuccessful attempts to pay, I had to quickly toss the fare through an open window of his cab just as he drove off.

If you served in this part of the world, you are absolutely not forgotten. I felt the goodwill you left behind all the time. I am forever grateful to you for helping our nation free yet another one from tyranny. What you did mattered.

Steve Comins


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