MELISSA BLOCK, host:
It's Monday, the day we bring you our series This I Believe. For this week's essay, following Veteran's Day Weekend, we turn to Sergeant Ernesto Haibi, an army medic and Iraq War veteran based in Ft. Lewis, Washington. Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.
JAY ALLISON: There is perhaps no time that belief is more emphatically tested and acted upon than in war. Ernesto Haibi's career in the military - five years in the Air Force, ten years in the National Guard and now in the Army - has afforded him the chance to test his beliefs against his actions and the actions of others.
Here is Ernesto Haibi with his essay for This I Believe.
ERNESTO HAIBI: My time in Iraq showed me the truth of my beliefs. I believe in mankind. Not gods, not devils, not angels and not spirits. I saw man's bravery from both soldier and civilian, and I saw horror and destruction from them too. I saw hate and loathing from all sides, and I saw caring for children, rebuilding of hospitals and schools and feeding the poor. Not by a government, but by individuals, by one man helping another man.
As a medic, I went to local clinics to inspect conditions and help when I could. I would deliver supplies to schools and relief centers, and Iraqis we knew us would bring us tea and cigarettes. Language was the only barrier, but a friendly smile bulldozed that wall.
I saw men moved by the death of innocents and was with those same men when they killed those responsible. On June 24, 2004, insurgents detonated several car bombs around the city of Mosul, killing over 100. No cops, no Iraqi national guardsmen, no Americans - all innocent civilians.
Cars were covered in blood as if they'd been hit with a paint sprayer. My unit fought Zarqawi-backed insurgents in a firefight that lasted almost eight hours. Then people moved quickly to help out - Iraqi civilians as well as American troops. But it shouldn't take a war for people to get along.
I don't justify our reasons for this war - that's not a soldier's luxury - and I don't justify what the insurgents have done to the Iraqis. But the passion of all sides - Iraqi, American, ally and insurgent - shows that if man can redirect his energies to one of acceptance and not intolerance, we can bring the zealot, the politician, the soldier and the outsider to a place where man is just that - man.
Many say that I'm cut off from the real world, but I believe they are the ones missing the truth. For all the death and destruction reported in the news, there are thousands of stories of kindness and caring that no one ever knows.
I believe that by striving for a world that accepts its oneness, we can transform wars, intolerance, religious persecution and political extremism into memory and maybe even folklore.
ALLISON: Army Sergeant Ernesto Haibi with his essay for This I Believe. Haibi's battalion is back in Iraq now, and he may be going again early next year. If so, he'll be blogging all the way. You can find a link to that blog, along with all the essays in our series and an invitation to write your own, at NPR.org.
For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.