Maj. Kevin Jarrard will be spending this Christmas in his second tour in Iraq with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marines, a Marine Corps Reserve unit headquartered in Montgomery, Ala.
He's from Gainesville and comes from a family where military service has become a family trait. His two brothers have served in the Army.
In between hunting for terrorists and meeting with the mayor, police chief, and tribal sheiks in order to maintain the peace that has taken hold across western Anbar province, he has found a little girl in desperate need of open heart surgery.
Her name is Amina Ala Thabit, she is just three and while I've only seen her picture, she has big brown eyes that reach out and grab you.
Kevin has arranged for Amina to have surgery at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn.
The hospital will cover all the costs; however, its going to take money to get Amina, her mom, and an escort/translator from Iraq to Nashville. They will have to fly commercial and that's not a discount route.
On behalf of Maj. Jarrard, I'm asking for your help. We need some money.
An account has been opened at BB&T bank, and fortunately, there's a branch in every town my column appears. So, I'm asking folks in Covington, Cumming, Dawsonville and Gainesville to go by and help.
It may be a little different, but if you've got somebody that just has everything, why don't you give a little gift for Amina in their honor. If you tell someone you care about that you gave in their name to help a child in need, I think they just might like that.
Here's a little girl in a place far away that will not live long without this surgery. Life isn't exactly peachy in Iraq, but from what I hear from Kevin, things are getting better. I just think it would be a great legacy for a little girl to grow up and say, "I'm here because of some generous Americans."
And while I'm at it, let me say another word or two about Kevin Jarrard. He's a father of four and I just can't imagine being in a war zone on Christmas, but that's where he is.
He comes from good folks. His daddy, Tom Jarrard, passed away this year and was one of the finest fellows I ever knew. Kevin reads my columns on line in Iraq, I was humbled by that.
But, let me close with a few lines from my latest e-mail from Kevin:
"Last, but most importantly, please join me in praying for Amina and her health. The condition is progressive and time is working against us. I trust that our God, who is sovereign over all things, will work this out as well. Please spread the word so that folks may add their supplications to my own.
I hope to return safely so that I may thank each of you in person next spring. Until then, I am privileged to serve our country, my family, and our community in this place.
Merry Christmas and Semper Fidelis."
If that doesn't make you proud to be an American, then there is something really wrong. Please help if you can and the result will be a Merry Christmas for all of us.
Harris Blackwood, a native of Social Circle, is on the editorial board of The Gainesville Times. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org