Retired Mobil cop, stays in touch with his students in Iraq

Mobil Register:

It wouldn't be the first choice for a trip abroad for most people, or the second or third, for that matter, but when the opportunity to go to Baghdad, Iraq, presented itself to Larry Hearn, he found he couldn't say no.

Hearn, a retired Mobile police officer, said when he was offered the chance to train Iraqis at a police academy there, he couldn't pass up the pay. But the monetary motivation for the job was soon overshadowed by something else, he said.

"Initially, I think the big factor was the money," Hearn said recently, several weeks after returning home to Mobile. "It pays good.

"But after I got over there, the priorities changed."

For 59-year-old Hearn, the desire to help the Iraqi friends he was making began to outweigh the compensation he was receiving for his work.

"The main thing that surprised me is how friendly, helpful and hopeful they are that this will work," said Hearn, who keeps in touch with his students by e-mailing his Iraqi interpreter, whom he considers a friend.

A veteran cop who retired in 1996 after 26 years with Mobile's police department, he spent five months in Iraq working for MPRI, a Virginia-based company that trains Iraqi civilians to become police officers.

...

When he arrived in Iraq, he had only one class with 30 students. Before he left, he was teaching three classes with 30 students in each.

While insurgent attacks continue almost daily, Hearn said there was never a shortage of men and women wanting to become police officers.

"They'll (insurgents) kill 30 to 40 of them and then you'll have 300 to 400 more sign up," Hearn said. "My hat's off to them."

...

Hearn said most of the students in his classes were there because their families had been beaten or killed during Saddam's reign.

"It was amazing the number of them who have bullet scars and scars from beatings from the old regime," Hearn said.

Dressed in the khaki uniform he wore in Iraq, Hearn said he was overwhelmed by the kindness of the people in Iraq.

"They just want to do everything for you," said Hearn, whose students there called him "father," a sign of respect in Iraq.

Before he left, his students presented him with gifts, including two Qurans, a watch, prayer beads and a prayer rug with his name embroidered in English and Arabic.

Why can't the national media carry stories like this?

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