Video: Soldier helps orphaned Iraqi kids

NBC News with Brian Williams
By Kevin Tibbles Correspondent
NBC News
updated 11/17/2005 11:28:07 AM ET 2005-11-17T16:28:07

Twenty-six-year-old Jonathan Powers always told his mom and dad he wanted to work with children, to be a teacher.

"Jon was always a natural leader," says his mom.

But he put those dreams on hold to serve his country in Iraq. For more than a year, Capt. Jonathan Powers saw it all, patrolling the mean streets of Baghdad. He even appears in the film "Gunner Palace," about the 1st Armored Division's experiences so far from home.

"The thing that affected me the most in Iraq, other than, of course, my friends dying," says Powers, "was dealing with the poverty level that the children had to live with."

When Powers returned to civilian life he could notforget what he had seen. Those children on the street were always on his mind.

"I realized there's a big difference that someone could make over there," he says.

Each soldier who comes home from Iraq is affected differently. Some don't recover, while others simply get on with their lives. But for Powers, the only way he can really complete his tour of duty is to return. Powers has now launched a program — War Kids Relief — to help the thousands of Iraqi orphans caught in the cross fire.

"They have to fight for their meal every day," says Powers. "You wonder what kind of life these kids will ever have."

War Kids Relief raises money to build orphanages. The Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation helps, and Powers’ father and friends also raise funds.

"Otherwise, these kids that are on the street are going to become bombers themselves," says Jonathan's father, Bill Powers.

To those who know him, Powers' decision to return to Iraq is no surprise.

"Jon didn't approach his job, I think, as a soldier," says the superintendent of Clarence High School, which Powers attended. "He approached it as a citizen of the United States and wanting to do more than simply defeat an enemy."

In the war zone, Powers saw four friends killed. He now says his work with orphans is done in their memory. Anything else would be a disservice.

"If I can go back there and I can make a positive influence on the country that I helped partially destroy, then maybe I can sort of regain the whole reason I went," he says.

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