The End of Phase 2b

Wow, I’m a bit tired.

I got up last night before midnight, in order to go and meet the forklift guy and the truck guys. One 10k forklift and two eighteen-wheeler trucks in tow, we went out to IBOL World HQ and Warehouse, and loaded the six pallets onto the trucks. Loaded, the trucks rolled away and headed to the container yard, where they’ll likely hang out for a few days before moving on. The hour was late, the dust was blowing, so I broke out a disposable camera someone had sent me a while ago, and took a few pictures; it’ll be weeks before I can get them developed and posted.

I have, more or less, figured out how to distribute 3445 bundles. I never thought that would happen, folks.

This week, those six pallets, representing around 1500 bundles and about 12,000 pounds of love, will head to Kirkuk City (map). Five of the pallets will stay there, with one of our combat brigades, and the sixth will get cross-loaded and head further on into the Kurdish region to Sulaymaniyah (map).

So, about 2000 bundles made their way our into my neck of the woods, and the rest are headed to Kirkuk. This might not seem like much to you, but it means a lot to me.

Saddam Hussein is from these parts of the woods. Part of what had me thinking about this whole IBOL thing was wanting to make some kind of a positive impact on this area. Thank you — there are two thousand bundles coursing their way through this area. Which is pretty fantastic.

And if you watch the news as much as I do, or maybe even a fraction of what I watch and read, you’ll know that Kirkuk is… interesting. It’s disputed. It’s debated. It’s seemingly tied to most every other topic here in Iraq. At times it’s been led by Turks, Arabs and Kurds. It’s rich history, diverse people and mixed cultures makes it a land, a city, a community in need of some, well, love.

My year here is almost up. I’m working with the unit replacing mine. My kids are counting the days until I leave Iraq, for what may well be the last time. When I was young, Iraq was a re-emerging leader in the Arab world, but faltered and spiraled downwards under Saddam Hussein. But even during the darkest of times, when this land was being ravaged by war or hate or strife, I’ve held out hope that I’d be able to help do something to move this country closer to not just peace but the greatness it is capable of. I never would have guessed it would be this — almost 3500 boxes, packed by some amazing and great people, distributed here, there, and everywhere in northern Iraq.

So, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

I have two more things to do. Well, okay, three. I’ll be in touch with the folks that have these last 1500 or so, and I’ll see what I can get from them to share here on the website. I also know that there’s a small snippet on IBOL in our own unit magazine, if I can every get my hands on the digital version of it.

The second thing is to see what if anything will carry on after I leave here. The warehouse is still there. CSM Flores and his crew think their replacements will support is being used the same way — if someone does something crazy like this. I need to find that someone, I guess. I’d like to leave here with a name and an address, and to be able to tell you to send what you want, when you want – I have no idea if I’ll be able to put that together.

And lastly, I need to look back at this whole thing, and do some writing. For my unit, for the Army, I need to capture what this was, why it worked, and what can be used again. This IBOL thing was pretty powerful; I’d hate for the Army to not learn something from this little undertaking. I’d like some crazy dreamer out there to have that crazy dream, and not have to start from complete scratch like I sometimes felt I did. Why think tens when you can think thousands. Writing about this, teaching the Army about this, is my Phase 3.

Thanks, IBOLsters!

Two last things, before I call it a day and go to sleep. Who saw my wife’s quilt in Houston, and who took a photo that they can send me?

And who is going to be near either Eugene or Beaverton, Oregon, before Thanksgiving? The IBOL Guy Family World Tour will be kicking off then, with stops in Oregon and the mountains east of San Bernardino, CA. Coffee’s going to be on me, and the locations will be small fabric and / or yarn places.

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37 Responses to “The End of Phase 2b”

  1. obscure Says:

    Hey there, IBOl Guy! I especially love Phase 3. I’m on the wrong coast to get together for coffee, but hope that others will have an opportunity to meet, thank and overwhelm you with hugs.

  2. Vicki Says:

    This has been quite a journey, IBOL Guy! May you have safe travels home.

  3. Crazy Babs Says:

    WOOHOO! That red box is MINE! I am so excited! You rock!

  4. Mary Jane Says:

    Well, all I can say is “thanks for the memories” …. it was great to help out in such a small way to aid in the larger picture. I hope the feeling of unity can be felt by those who receive the packages in Kirkuk – and throughout Iraq. I, too, am on the wrong coast for a cup of joe, but I will be there in spirit. Thanks IBOL guy.

  5. Gerrie Says:

    There is a photo of it on the quilt show site –

  6. terry grant Says:

    Beaverton? I’m so close I can see it from my office window. Coffee with the IBOL guy and Kristen? I’m there!

  7. Debbie U. Says:

    Congratulations on bringing this phase of this mighty project to its intended destination! I hope you are successful in Phase 3 and beyond. Have a safe and speedy journey home to your family. I’m bummed that I don’t live in the northwest to take you up on that cup of coffee!

  8. Connie Sayler Says:

    If you want to take a side trip to the coast of Oregon I am in Gold Beach and would love to have the IBOL guy and Kristen for coffee……… Or dinner perhaps.

  9. Kit Says:

    If you ever head near Atlanta GA, dinner’s on us!! The boys (who sent artwork) would be SO excited. πŸ™‚ I love this post so much. It’s wonderful to hear about the destinations of all that love, and you are so wise to document this project. I know I’ve said it before, but thank you. Truly, you rock. Thank you, and huge thanks to ALL the folks both here, there and everywhere, civilian and military, who have made this happen. Bundles of love, indeed.

  10. Jan in WA State Says:

    Whoot!! Coffee’s on ME!! I’m just over the Mighty Columbia, east of Vancouver, USA, and I can show you and your mob lots of little quilt and/or yarn shops on both sides of the river. If Beaverton doesn’t make the final cut, I can do Eugene also.

    IBOL has been the best “doing good and doing well at the same time” experience of my life. ALL OF US have YOU to thank for the idea, and the ground work, and the ramrodding, and all those other things the CMFWIC (sorry, old Air Force jargon) does to make it all work. I pray you can keep it going by passing it on to your replacement unit. Personally, I have lots more to donate, and my husband has loved this as a “stash reduction” project–and boy howdy, I can reduce a lot more.

    I’m sorry I wasn’t in Houston to see Kristen’s quilt. Instead, I was in Tucson, helping with our 3rd “Quilt for a Cause” Auction; we raised over $110,000 for womens cancer research. Houston is still on my “bucket list” even though I’m mostly a knitter.

    You totally rock, IBOL Guy, and I join all the rest in wishing you and your family blue skies, soft landings, and all good things. You are truly a gift from God to all the Iraqis you have touched, and to all of us as well. You have brought out the very best in all of us. Even though we haven’t met, yet, I say Thank you, Dear Friend.

  11. gail norback Says:

    Thanks again and bless you for all of yur efforts!! You will remain in my prayers!! Gail Norback Continue to have a safe journey

  12. lella Says:

    Safe travels. And many Blessings. May you walk in Beauty, and always in Peace. Take care.

  13. Magpie Sue Says:

    I only hope that whatever you write about this project for the Army’s benefit gets read and distributed and implemented. THAT would be an accomplishment!

    I will be holding you, your cohorts, and your replacements in my heart and hoping that even more good will eventually come from this project.

  14. Susan Says:

    You are leaving Iraq a little better than you found it. I was glad to help. So, I’ll add “You are welcome” to the many thanks I also send.

    I live in Los Angeles. San Bernardino isn’t exactly next door, but it isn’t an impossible drive from here, either.

    I’m glad you will be with your family soon.

  15. Ann in Marin Says:

    This was a great post and I appreciate your dedication to IBOL now and in the future. You have indeed left Iraq better than you found it, and I hope it carries on. Have fun on the Beaverton tour and safe home to you.

    Many thanks, many times over.

  16. quiltdivajulie Says:

    “Leaving it better than you found it” has been our family mantra for a long, long time. You’ve done that and much more ~ you’ve allowed so many of us to help “make it better” for people we will never meet face to face. Doing good FEELS good and you involved/encouraged us in your own efforts . . . it doesn’t get much better than that.

    Here’s to your ongoing journey, your writings, your family, and whatever else ya’ll put your hearts and minds into!


  17. stephanie Says:

    Thanks for this post. And thanks for your inspiring efforts to bring about positive change for the people of Iraq. (And us too!)

    I posted a bit on my blog recently about my daughter’s work with an orphanage and street foundation in Romania- I titled it Love is the Answer…You have a lot in common with her- you both know it’s possible to make a difference, and you both are willing to walk the talk.

    I really believe LOVE IN ACTION is the answer! You have helped us express love to people who need it, and peace is possible when folks learn to share with each other. Thanks helping LOVE and PEACE grow, one little IBOL at a time!

  18. Nan Slaughter Says:

    Aw shucks! I just returned from Houston and would have happily taken a zillion pictures of your wife’s quilt – if ONLY I’D KNOWN!!! Also…since you’ll be in Oregon, which is only a stone’s throw from Seattle – really – why not just head north and come to our quilt group meeting?! Coffee will be on US so we can thank you for the opportunity you gave us to help – in a very small way – it was a wonderful experience. We think you are pretty terrific and wish you a speedy and safe flight home to your family…oh, we thank your family too for letting you serve our Country. God bless! xo, Nan and The Sew Whats of Sammamish, WA

  19. Kay in Boston Says:

    thanks for letting us become part of this. safe travels back to your family and friends – aloha nui loa – Kay

  20. Gwen Says:

    When the IBOL Guy Family World Tour swings by Central Florida – say Tampa or Orlando or even Daytona, let me know! The coffee will be on ME! πŸ™‚
    (And I bet we can work in some dinner, maybe a theme park or show or beach trip, and, of course, some fabric shopping!)

    There aren’t words to describe what you’ve accomplished – the distribution of sewing supplies is just the tip of the iceberg. You started a ripple in a pond that turned into a wave that crossed the oceans and changed the lives of every single person it touched. Few people can dream of having the impact that you are having – thank YOU for letting each of us take part… πŸ™‚

    Safe travels home to your family! Blessings to all of you! πŸ™‚

  21. Ramie Says:

    Well, I’m not exactly near Eugene or Beaverton, but if you head up to Spokane, I’ll be up here. My mother-in-law is a quilter, I typically shop the shops with her, so I can take you to several local quilt stores. πŸ™‚ I wish I could have mailed more than two boxes, but I was very, VERY pregnant right before your deadline. Baby #2 was born August 17 and I believe I got those boxes out the weekend he was originally due. I would be interested in sending more if you are able to get an IBOL replacement who will be in Iraq next. I could recruit at least a dozen or more to send boxes if there is a next time. I’ll be following to find out. πŸ™‚

  22. suesue Says:

    wish i’d known to take a picture too! fabulous, wondrous story. thank you again and may your journey continue with God and love.

  23. Kimberly Says:

    Wow! I am amazed what one idea can do. 3500 bundles is crazy cool. People can surprised you in a good way if you let them. It would be so lovely if someone might be able to carry this on. Hopefully that person can be found.

  24. Sherrill Says:

    It is fitting that what was partly inspired by the book “Three Cups of Tea” is finishing phase 2 with cups of coffee. I’ll host the Eugene gathering (and will also serve tea and cake).

  25. Debi Helgren (Iowa's Mom) Says:

    I’m not a quilter and I didn’t get around to sending a box, but my daughter, Erin aka Iowa, helped you with stacking some of those boxes. I know she was glad to help!
    Be safe for the remainder of your tour and safe travels home to your family!

  26. Stephanie Hanson Says:

    Hi Art,

    I’m so happy you are so pleased with the results of this wonderful idea. I’m thrilled to have participated. You’ve really hit a wonderful cord of generousity in this quilty/yarny world. You made it so easy for all of us to get on board with this idea.

    You absolutley stunned me when I got the thank you note from you. On you wife’s site, she calls you Mr. Wonderful (I think that’s right). Well, you are!

    Thank you for make this such a sweet memory for so many–givers and receivers alike,

    • IBOL Guy Says:

      Well, I’ve tried to send some cards, but I have not sent as many as I would like. Time is my worst enemy on that. But I’d hate to get home and have my mom ask if I’d written thank you notes, and have to say no.

  27. melissa Says:

    Thank you so much! I feel so special to have been a part of this!

  28. GS Says:

    Thank you so much for this amazing project, and allowing us all to be a part of it. Every IBOL update and posting brought tears to my eyes and renewed in me faith in all the wonderful people of our country and especially our armed forces. Initiatives like this serve to inspire others with ideas, dreams and faith in humanity. That you want to analyze what worked and preserve the learnings for the army and others in the future is icing on the cake. I hope all of us remember the IBOL lessons can carry them forth with us – the ripple effects of your ideas will spread from Kirkuk, Hawaii and the rest of the US!

    Safe travels back to and with your family!

  29. NancyAnne Says:

    Oh, Art – I feel like such a piker. I only sent 1 IBOL box and 2 SSP3 boxes. Absolutely nothing. I am hoping you can find a successor – although whoever it is cannot begin to match what you have done. You are, after all, the first to tap the potential of the quilt blog world! I want to be able to continue to contribute without putting on a uniform. Please be sure to provide my email address to anyone who can provide a way to help women and children in your current neck of the woods (or any other location that puts women and children at risk without allowing them a voice or any viable alternative). I have non-quilting family and friends who would be very generous in their contributions to these types of initiatives. Please let us know if you make it to the East coast – I’d drive quite a distance to buy you and Kristin a cup of coffee (and a milkshake each for your children)! All my love – NancyAnne

  30. Ivory Says:

    Reflecting on this, I think the reason it worked is because you took something people had that they didn’t really need (that in our heart of hearts many of us feel a little guilty about) and you turned it into something they could give to another person that would help in some way. I had a friend that told me when her friend died, her husband was frustrated because he had to get rid of all the stash she had accumulated in her life. But my friend explained to him that each of the pieces of fabric was an idea for a project for someone she loved that she didn’t have time to make – the thought behind the stash was love and a desire to give. That is what you tapped into – you let us imagine someone else who really needed that stuff making projects for other people that they care about – we enjoy vicariously through them a sense of accomplishment.

    You made brilliant use of the internet.

    You also tapped into a sense that I share with many people that we have done something horrible to the Iraqi people – that their country is broken because of us and this was a small way we could do something concrete and tangible to fix some small part of what was done. I’m not commenting on the war per se but more on the reality that being a civilian in a war zone sucks, no matter how justified the war.

    You gave us a way to help women and children – that’s powerful.

    You gave use a deadline which forced us to get moving and act. It took me about 4 hours to assemble and mail 5 boxes – this is the kind of project I can complete even with my two toddlers demanding much of my time.

    You did this in the summer when we had time to get stuff together and send it off (rather than during Christmas or Thanksgiving when most of use are racing about madly).

    I think a lot of quilters and knitters like to donate things – we like making things and have run out of family to give stuff to – so we donate to the hospital, afghans for afghans, Mother Bear Project, the linus blanket project. Even though it would be cheaper and faster to run down to Carter’s and buy something for a friend’s baby, we spend hours working because, “every baby should have one homemade thing”. This is not rational – but most of us take a lot of pride in what we do and many of us enjoy the process of making something more than the product its self – so asking us to make a bundle tapped into this impulse as well.

    It was a brilliant idea and I am so glad I was able to be a part of this.

  31. Mary Ann Scanlon Says:

    Your welcome, and THANK YOU for the opportunity to help. As others have said, it was a brilliant idea, perfectly executed and what an outcome! Please feel free to leave my email address with the next phase, I want to help more if I can. As for coffee, well I am in SoCal and would be thrilled to meet the Family Tour for coffee, heck I’ll bring the danish, just tell me when and where! Safe travels home IBOL guy, I know there are plenty of loving arms anxious for you to get there!

  32. Lesli Says:

    Eugene? Beaverton? Heck I can be in both places since I live halfway between them! Just make sure we know when/where because we’d all love a chance to say “Thanks”.

  33. jacquie Says:

    coffee would definitely be on me….if you’re ever in kansas…look me up. (you never know where life might take you). congrats on the success of this project…and i’m with mary ann…if the next person, next project comes about…leave my contact info as well.
    safe travels.

  34. Gail Smeach Says:

    Glad one of my Bee sisters sent me the link to this update! Wish I could be there to cheer you when you come home. There will be quilters across America cheering in spirit! Not only are you one heck of a soldier Major, you must also have the wings of an angel. Service folks like you make me proud to be an American!!!

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