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Marines bring smiles to local village

11 May 2006 | Cpl. William Skelton

Marines with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment brought smiles to the faces of hundreds of Iraqis in a small village near here May 11.

A squad of Marines from A Company delivered much needed and desired supplies to children and adults living in the battalion’s area of operations north of Gharmah.

“Basically we are on a mission of good will,” said Lance Cpl. Toby R. Dye, a 22-year-old infantryman from Lindrith, N.M. “We are going out to the public to give children pencils and other items for school – and maybe a few soccer balls.”

Marines want the people of Iraq to know they are there to help. One of the many ways Marines do that is by passing out items the people need and want.

“The kids love to see us come out,” Dye explained. “They love to get anything new from us.”

School supplies and soccer balls are definitely the most popular items, Dye added.

Children of the village came out by the dozens as they saw the Marines heading towards the town. They all wanted to see if the Marines were coming to bring them new things to brighten their day.

There’s much more to the mission here than just fighting insurgents, according to Staff Sgt. Rolando C. Viado, the 34-year-old platoon commander from Sacramento, Calif.

“It’s times like this where we go out and talk to the people, and let them know we are here to help them,” Viado said.

One of the first and most rewarding stops of the day was to deliver a wheel chair to a young Iraqi woman. The woman suffers from muscular dystrophy and is unable to walk.

“The last time we were in this area we found out about this woman,” Dye said. “When we saw she couldn’t walk we knew a wheel chair would help her to get out and have a more normal life.”

The father of the young woman was overwhelmed and a little embarrassed by the Marines’ generosity. After the presentation, the wheel chair was quickly ushered into the recipient’s home.

“I think we caught them off guard by bringing the chair to them,” said Pfc. Nicandro G. Herrera, a 19-year-old infantryman from Lafayette, Ind. “I am sure they appreciated it though.”

The Marines continued through the village, making quick stops to avoid staying in one position too long. The area was known as a friendly village to the Marines – still they kept security ensuring all were safe.

“Even though these are good will missions we stay on the alert in case of an attack,” Herrera said. “You can never be too careful.”

The mission went off without a hitch.  The Marines stopped several more times and passed out bags, pre-packed with items for school inside.

“I wish we had enough that everyone could get something,” Dye said. “We try to ensure to give the items to the ones who need it the most.”

The pride the Marines felt was evident on their faces, as they watched happy kids walked away with new stuff. Coming from a country with an abundance of everything, the Marines knew they had made a difference in the lives of the small village.

“I see these people and they don’t have much,” said Dye.  “What we do is try to make them feel comfortable around us, so they will trust us.”