This semester I have been taking a Journalism class, honing my writing skills, and my bowhunting skills, and my computer hacking skills....but I digress. This last section we worked on interviews and writing articles based off of them. I have to admit that the journalism part of writing was a little difficult for me. You cannot exaggerate to make a point. And you have to attribute, attribute, attribute. So once I got the hang of writing "he/she said blah blah blah" at the beginning or end of every sentence, I started getting a good grade.
THEN- it came time to actually conduct my own interview. So I thought long and hard about who I wanted to interview. Well- actually it wasn't that long nor was it very hard to come up with BLAINE KEMSLEY! For those of you who know him, you know he recently came home from volunteering to serve in Iraq as a civilian with the Corps of Engineers. And those of you who don't know him, now you know why he came so readily to my mind!
I have to preface my article even more to let you know that I have loved and respected this man for many years. He was one of my favorite seminary teachers and is head of a family I adore. They rank up high among my list of favorite people. (Ok, I don't actually have a list, but if I did, you know they'd be on it.) SO- writing this article was about more than just my grade. And it's the first article I've written that got me a 95 on the first draft. This is my final draft and I thought I would share it in my blog. And yes, after this interview, my pedestal for Brother Kemsley shot up a few more notches! So here is my KUDOS to a hometown hero...
A local architect who recently returned from volunteering to work on $540 million worth of improvement projects in Iraq said that the media has done the campaign in Iraq a disservice by not telling the whole story.
Blaine Kemsley worked among the troops as he served in the Corps of Engineers and said that significant progress has been made in rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq, but it takes time. He said the world expects everything to happen in six months, but it just can't be done, because Iraq is so far behind the rest of the world.
Kemsley ran an office of five to eight project managers of the Corps of Engineers in Baghdad, Iraq. He oversaw 83 projects worth $540 million. These projects included sewer lines, communications centers, housing, police stations, electrical grid projects, hospitals, schools, roadways, and water treatment plants.
He said some of his favorite projects were the hospitals and elementary schools for girls and for boys, but especially two water treatment plants which provided 45 percent of clean water to Baghdad. He said the water was cleaner than Albuquerque's out of the tap, and it was so fulfilling because when he left, the Iraqi unemployment rate was at 35 percent and that meant that many people were previously drinking dirty water.
But his time wasn't without disappointment. Kemsley said that the most frustrating part of the job was the lack of security from the Iraqis. Two of the schools he had helped build were blown up, but luckily no one was hurt.
When asked about the reaction from the Iraqis' to him as an American, he said that "they are anxious for us to not be there. They want to control their own country. And they want us to be a memory."
But he doesn't think it will happen in this generation if we learn anything from history and our campaigns in Germany and Japan, who are now America's allies.
Kemsley said, "There are three kinds of people who volunteer to serve in Iraq. There are the soldiers who are true heroes. And there are the civilians who are true patriots. And there are those who go for the money, because it can be really good."
Kemsley volunteered to work in Iraq for six months, but extended his stay twice in order to finish a couple of projects and to allow a smooth transition for his replacement.
He said he felt inspired to volunteer to work in Iraq with the Corps of Engineers when he lived in Germany. He said in 2004, when the 1st Armored Division in Wiesbaden deployed to Iraq, he was left behind with all the families and saw what they had to go through. Then the Corps of Engineers launched a campaign to write to the deployed soldiers letters of support. And while he was writing a letter, he said he felt a tug at his heart that it wasn't enough to simply write his support, that it was his personal duty to support the troops and get his boots on the ground.
Kemsley said he felt safe with the troops, that they are dedicated, talented and professional. He also worked with Iraqi Americans who were instrumental and that the Iraqi nationals were "tremendously respectable."
He said that among the things he missed the most while working overseas in Iraq were his wife and children. But beyond that were the freedom and convenience that America has. He said Iraq just has limited freedom.
Kemsley said if he could tell America one thing about Iraqis, he would say "They're just like us. They want their freedom, and happiness, and family. They just want a normal life."
Blaine Kemsley is a father of 7 children and has two grandchildren. He is married to Shauna Kemsley and works as a supervisory program manager. He has been an architect for 26 years.
P.S. Can I just say how impressed my journalism professor was? Not with me, but with all the accomplishments of Brother Kemsley. He is pretty impressive!