Why Do We Want a Scholarship Endowment for Refugee Students?

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For those who don’t know me, my name is Brian Huskie. I’m a teacher in an urban school district and as of this writing I’ve been there for eight years, five of which I’ve taught English Language Learners. Before teaching I was in the Army, and in 2004 I was in Iraq. Here I am just over a decade ago:

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I was with one other soldier at a traffic control point when two Iraqi kids came over to talk to us. Here they are:

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They wanted to go buy kabobs for us and charge us triple for them. They also wanted our bullets so they could scrape the bullet off and light the gun powder. We teased them for a few minutes, haggling over kabobs and lighting matches. The older one tried to get us to give him a grenade for a couple of kabobs. The soldier who was with me, in the picture above, pretended to throw the grenade. He didn’t even have it in his hand…it was in good fun…but the younger one ran (stumbled, really) into the weeds and started crying. He was bawling. He wouldn’t let anyone near him. I took off my helmet and gave up my gun and brought the kid a Gatorade. He whirled around and hugged me, and we hugged in the weeds for a long time. When I hug my four year old I sometimes feel that little Iraqi boy’s ribs. Then he showed me the scars on his leg. He had been burned from his ankle to his thigh. He was covered in scars. He made a machine gun noise, pointed to his leg, and said “Amerikee!” That was eleven years ago. If the kid is still alive, he’d be 18 or so.

Like a bad movie, fireworks on the Fourth of July made my heart race something fierce, at least the first few years after I came back. Then, with time, it faded, and I moved on. Until last Fourth of July. I was with my family on Montauk beach watching the fireworks and my youngest, 2 years old, was terrified. He tried to run away high up on a sand dune. I ran after him, caught him, picked him up and tried to console him. The kid just went limp. My son didn’t move, didn’t make a sound, and just fell asleep, almost instantly. All of a sudden I was back, kicking in doors and raiding homes. In one, there stood a man, he might have been affiliated with Al Qaeda, who knows…but he had a son under the age of five in the upstairs room. There was shooting and yelling, and the kid just slept. I picked him up and brought him to his mother, and although he was unhurt he wouldn’t wake up. He just went limp.

Then there is this moment that I relive in my nightmares . We took over a hospital and, after a day of fighting, a man brought his son in. The son was obviously dead…maybe 7 or 8 years old. He was flopping around in his dad’s arms. The father was laughing uncontrollably – maniacally. I never forgot it.

Refugees are close to my heart. I have students now who are teenagers who were in Iraq when I was there eleven years ago. When I see my students I see the crowds of little kids who begged for pencils and candy; I see the kids who walked to school until they canceled school so we could fight. I broke their desks to burn to keep warm in December, and our sniper took a position in an elementary classroom. I see the boy whose leg was burned, and the little limp sleeper who had guns pointed at him, and the laughing dad. I see them in my own kids, somehow. It haunts me.

These kids from Iraq, as well as refugees from other places in the Middle East, Africa, Burma, and Nepal, didn’t choose to have war or persecution happen to them. They didn’t choose the actions of their countries or of ours. They all have their own stories, but somehow, they made it here. They have an obligation to make the most out of their lives, and they know it. It’s a second chance many don’t get. What are they going to do with this new life they were given?

We want this scholarship fund to help refugees pay for college, and we are asking for your help. We need a minimum of $25,000 for an endowment, which would give a small scholarship every single year, forever. I would like to reach $100,000…that’s our goal. Any little bit helps. Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to e-mail or post below. Thank you again!

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