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Marines pause combat patrol to show goodwill to Iraqis

28 Aug 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

Marines made their intentions clear to Iraqis during Operation Rubicon, a company-sized combat operation here. 

They’re here to help.  It was a clear as the bottles of water they passed out to Iraqi citizens.

Marines and a sailor assigned to K Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment handed out drinkable water to Iraqi women and children during Operation Rubicon Aug. 28.  It was an answer to a chronic problem here.  Locals have no drinkable water because of water treatment facilities damaged by insurgents and years of neglect under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial control.

“It puts things in perspective,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Adam R. Brandon, a 24-year-old hospital corpsman from Nacogdoches, Texas, assigned to K Company. “In the states everybody’s got running water. But here, some don’t have running water or water that’s safe to drink.”

Before Marines came along many families resorted to drinking unfiltered water coming from the Euphrates River.  The river is full of pollutants.  Farm runoffs are dumped directly into the river and in many cases, it is cesspool of human and animal waste.

Most Iraqis get sick from the water.  Their communities can’t afford to fix their any of the water treatment facilities there.

Marines halted their patrol to answer the call.  It wasn’t a permanent fix, but at least a gesture of faith.  They saw the suffering eased it where they could.

One Marine rushed to his seven-ton truck to pass out refreshments to the thirsty neighborhood kids.

“They were pretty happy to get it so it was nice to give it to them,” said Cpl. Adam T. Williams, a motor transport operator assigned to Headquarters and Service Company.

The 24-year-old from Mexico, Mo., said he was glad he could make a difference handing out water to kids.

Marines’ turning point came when they were setting up a vehicle checkpoint at a gas station.  There, they met an Iraqi family with mentally disabled children.

The family had been there since morning trying to gather up the last of their belongings to before they moved out of this city and away from insurgents, Brandon said.

“Out of generosity you want to do all you can to help but you’re cautious at the same time,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy P. Hanson, a 30-year-old platoon sergeant from Piedmont, Ala.

He said Marines have to always be on their toes because insurgents are always there. However, Iraqis are the reason why Hanson is in Iraq so he was more than willing to take the risk.

“That’s where you have a different mindset and look more to helping them,” he said.

The Marines gave water to the family who sat quietly inside a crowded sedan.  They passed out the liter-sized bottles without much fanfare and moved along with their patrol.

It was a small gesture, Williams said.  But it was one that will stick with that one family.  They’ll remember Marines who shared from their own supplies to help those who needed it.

“If everybody goes out their way just a little bit to put forth a positive image, it will stop insurgency some and help in the long run,” Williams said.