By Lt. Col. Pat Simon
225th Engineer Brigade public affairs
BAGHDAD - "From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life."
That quote from former tennis great Arthur Ashe is not just a famous saying, it's a way of life for a unique group of soldiers deployed here in Baghdad.
They are members of the college fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi who meet every week at the Pegasus dining facility at Camp Liberty, Iraq. They are fraternity "brothers in arms" and part of a time honored tradition of service on the battlefield.
"It's been up and running here in Iraq since the beginning of the war in 2003," said Maj. Reginald Satterwhite, a division automations officer for 1st Cavalry Division, Multinational Division-Baghdad, who hails from Columbia, S.C. "Meetings like this took place during Vietnam and even World War II."
At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, the first list of Kappa Alpha Psi soldiers was made and it was passed along through the years for new members to join during their deployments. Now, some 115 lists later, the spirit of the group lives on - through service.
"Whenever we can, we like to give back," said Greenwood, S.C., native, Lt. Col. Joe Berry, who works with Multinational Corps-Iraq as a corps signal officer who assists the Iraqi Security Forces and is the elder member of the group.
"We view it as a lifelong commitment," said Maj. Willus Hall of Lafayette, La., who serves as the officer-in-charge of Iraqi Army partnership with the 225th Engineer Brigade. "We are taught from the onset (during college) that this is a lifelong process, a journey for achievement."
"Achievement is the premise of everything we do," echoed Pensacola, Fla., native, Maj. Kent Broussard, environmental science officer for the 1st Cavalry Division Multinational Division-Baghdad. What they achieve is not mandated by an Army operations plan for partnership with the Iraqis, but their accomplishments do meet the same desired goal.
Every other week, Berry, Hall, Broussard and other members of the fraternity reach out to the local community of Baghdad and spend quality time with Iraqi Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Last week they taught the children first aid.
In the past, they have hosted soccer and basketball games. They have even taken the children on field trips to fire stations and gave them a chance to try on firefighter's gear.
"It is very rewarding to give back to the community and mentor when there is an opportunity to make a difference by educating and empowering our youth," Broussard said.
Their fraternity mission of making a difference does not stop there. They also go the extra mile helping fellow Soldiers. The group sponsors poetry readings to give soldiers a chance to express themselves and jazz socials where soldiers can kick back and enjoy soothing music. It's a chance for everyone to escape from the stress of combat life.
"When they are reading poetry for example, they can forget for a moment what's really going on around them," said Berry. "If you take their mind off of it for a while, it eases stress."
"Wherever you can break the routine of 12 to 18 hour shifts, that makes their situation a whole lot better," said Satterwhite." It's really nice to provide an outlet and downtime for soldiers."
As for their own inner circle, these fraternity brothers also have their own support system to help each other make it through the deployment. Just sitting with them for a few minutes makes you feel like you will never be alone with these guys.
"We're extremely close knit," said Hall. We've enjoyed some of the most hearty laughs and light moments, memories that will last forever."
Those memories of partnership and giving something back would have made fellow Kappa Alpha Psi member Arthur Ashe very proud.