J.J. The 2 Star Peshmerga*

“Aw! Here we go with the jokes again, guys!”

That’s J.J. And that’s his self-scripted reply to my, “J.J., you’re such a ham!” The instigating cue I feed him each time I tease my little buddy as he revels in being the absolute center of attention. At four years old he’s one of the youngest and funniest disaster responders in Kurdistan, Iraq right now. His mom and dad are the incredible and fearless leaders of ground operations in Iraq for CRI, the crisis response & disaster relief organization we all proudly belong to.

J.J. and his eight month old baby brother, nicknamed “Beno,” are definitely bursts of sunshine in the midst of Iraq’s relentlessly horrible situation. The minute our team walks in the door- from a day spent in sweltering heat experiencing the chaotic and taxing work of running first-aid clinics, providing emotional care & trauma counseling, distributing food or other basic necessities- all the energy we exhausted on the field comes flooding back in the form of little boy squeals and giggles.

What isn’t to inspire belly laughs when a pint sized platinum blond, blue eyed boy comes bounding at you dressed as a Peshmerga soldier (in full camo) while posing as your commanding officer emphatically informing you on the (imaginary) basecamp security situation. “Uh… Guys! I think… I hear some bad guys coming. Yup! I hear ‘em. They’re downstairs. I think I’m gonna need some back up. Who wants to come with me?”

The first “Sure, I’ll come with you,” is swiftly responded to by the shortest 2 Star General ever. “Okay. Ah… Good. Here, you take this one!” Depending on 2 Star’s tactical approach of the day, a ninja sword, a plastic suction cup bow and arrow set or dinged up plastic gun that makes real shooting sounds gets thrust into your hands in a hurried and anxious frenzy.

“Okay. So, you guys shoot like this.” Our animated master weapons handler instructs us with absolute confidence.
“Like this?” Asks our semi-loopy and heat exhausted rag tag troupe of aid workers as we intentionally hold our assigned weapons upside down and backwards in hopes the dopey Phase I antics of covert “Operation Distraction” will buy a few more precious seconds of comfort in the one room with decent a/c.

“Um…no. That’s not how you do it. Come on guys. You do it like this.” Our intensely serious and matter of fact Peshmerga Jr. demonstrates correct technique in a stance that would do Petter Pan proud.

“Oh! Okay. Like this?” Our band of security detail recruits asks as it slyly initiates Phase II of Operation Distraction.
“Aw… No. How many times do I gotta show you guys…” our exasperated officer-in-chief explains after a dramatic face-palm. Pausing for a split second and slowly cracking a giant grin, one can practically see the gears in J.J.’s head spinning at mach-10. J.J. slowly says, with a revelatory giggle, “Aw… I think you guys are just messing with me.”

“Really? Oh man! You got us. We were messing with you. Okay. Are the bad guys still there? Or did they leave?” (Cue Operation Distraction, Phase III.)
“Um… Hang on. I’m gonna go check…… Nope. They left but they’re gonna come back later. But we gotta hurry up and get ready for them when they come back.” Abruptly changing course, J.J. marches himself across the common area towards his red bag of toys while shedding his prized Peshmerga 2 Star General shirt. Thoughtful and reflective he pauses again this time announcing, “Uh… Guys…I think I’m gonna need someone to play Legos with me now…”

Interjecting with a remark of my own, “Hey J.J., can I tell you something?”
“Yup. What?” He says with a sideways glance that needs no words to communicate he’s on a mission and can’t be deterred.
“You’re so funny and you’re such a ham!”
Gears turning again, J.J. stops half-way through unbuttoning his shirt. “Aw! Here we go with the jokes again!” Looking around the room, he laughs that oh so perfect little boy laugh signaling delight to the uttermost.

It’s a good day to be an aid worker in Iraq.

*This was a my ch. 4 writing assignment from MatadorU

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