(Host) An important sheik from an Iraqi province had a reunion on Thursday with some Vermont soldiers at the state National Guard headquarters.
(Abu Risha) (voice in Arabic, then translator) “We would like to express our appreciation to the National Guard and to the state of Vermont.”
(Host) Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha spoke through a translator. He said his province has overcome terrorists and insurgents.
(Abu Risha) (voices shift back and forth from Arabic to English) “Today in this state … we present this victory … to the families of the victims of the soldiers in Iraq … and specifically express our appreciation to the state of Vermont.”
(Host) He was one of three officials from the Al Anbar province who visited the US.
The National Guard says the visit to Camp Johnson was significant because Vermont Guard members served in Al Anbar province in 2005 and 2006 – when it was very dangerous.
Colonel Mark Lovejoy commanded Task Force Saber in Iraq. He says the sheik and his late brother were a great help to American forces.
(Lovejoy) "Those were the only people that we were dealing with at that time. Because everyone else through intimidation from insurgents and Al Qaeda would not deal with U.S. forces.”
(Host) James Soriano is a State Department official traveling with the Iraqi delegation. He says the sheik keeps a memento of the Vermonters’ service.
(Soriano) “And I said to him, `And you know we’re going to go to the state of Vermont.‘ … And, he said, `Vermont?’ He said `There was a Vermont military unit which was stationed here in the Ramadi area.’ He rose from his chair and went over to the shelf and pulled off the shelf a plaque, signed by the colonel and the sergeant-major, in the shape of the state of Vermont. He still had it on display."
(Host) The delegation also visited Norwich University in Northfield.
AP Photo/Toby Talbot