Please try to help

West Albany grad seeks donations to assist needy children in Iraq

By Jennifer Rouse
Albany Democrat-Herald

A soldier who went to high school in Albany is asking for help for the Iraqi children he sees every day.

Spc. Michael Tingue is stationed in Bayji, Iraq, just north of Tikrit. Tingue, who graduated from West Albany High School in 2000, wrote in an e-mail to the Democrat-Herald that the children of Bayji are lacking in clothes, hygiene items and basic school supplies.

He is a supply specialist and unit weapons specialist with the Headquarters Battery, 1st Infantry, 7th Field Artillery.

He normally spends his days escorting civilian affairs personnel on trips to Iraqi water purification plants and schools.

"The children here are so deprived that they are faced with the choice every day. Go to school, or go to work," he wrote. "Most choose work, where they earn three dollars a day filling sand bags. Classrooms are very small.

Classes are often held in rooms that you or I would consider a tool shed."

He wrote that many of the children are clothed in used army clothes and boots that American soldiers give them.

Tingue said they need basic school supplies like pencils and paper. He said not to send crayons, because they will melt in the extereme heat. The children, ages 10-16, also need clothes, tooth brushes and tooth paste. He said they love to play soccer and would probably like to receive soccer balls. He said their lives are so different from those of American children that he's not sure how they would react to toys.

"They need so much I don't even know where to begin," he wrote. "I get emotional even thinking of these poor children."

Tingue said that if anyone can donate items, they should mail them to him. He will make sure they get to the children, and will try to send pictures back of the children using the donations. He said he hopes that the American presence will make a difference in the country.

"I believe I'm here to save the world," he wrote. "And it starts with the children."

Randy Nyquist, who coached Tingue in football and track at West Albany, said he was a big-hearted, caring young man in high school.

"I was always impressed with Mike's people skills," he said. "He always seemed to have a lot of compassion, especially for those less fortunate than him."

He said Tingue was humble and hardworking, often holding down a job in addition to his school work and sports. He said Tingue, who played defensive end and tight end, could possibly have played at a small college or in Division 1 football, but struggled with injuries.

"Mike knows how to deal with adversity and overcome it in a positive way," Nyquist said. "I felt like Mike was a good leader by example, and was always concerned about others, as well as himself."

How to help

Send packages of clothes for children ages 10-16, school supplies and hygiene items to Spc. Michael Tingue, HHB 1-7 FOB, Fort Summerall, OIFII, APO, AE 09392.

Has he talked to his unit about this?

I only say that because there is a great deal of time, money, and effort being put into the very things he's speaking of.

Schools and hospitals/medical needs took a very high priority in every zone I saw over there. It's hard to believe (although not impossible) that his unit has missed the mark on this issue.

no shame