In war-ravaged Raqqa, we heard a school’s distress call. It was February 2018, four months following the liberation of Raqqa. As bomb disposal experts, we knew better than to rush in, as ISIS frequently used child screams as lures.
A terrified Chihuahua was hiding behind a concrete pedestal, the only survivor among his family’s dead. Our son Barry was born in the midst of the horrors of war.
Despite my initial apprehension, I put on my gloves and offered Barry a biscuit. He nibbled warily as I petted him. I promised to return and left him with provisions.
When I met Barry, I felt optimism for the first time since I left the Army in 2014. I returned home to the lingering effects of war and the stresses of my own life.
Attending a friend’s funeral in Syria reignited my soldier’s spirit. I jumped at the chance to play for the Syrian team when it was presented to me.
About a month after we first met, I went looking for Barry among the school’s ruins. To my relief, I overheard one of his coworkers call his name. I reached out and lightly stroked his head with my bare hand. There was a natural flow to it.
I had to take a chance on Barry in order to gain his confidence.