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Donated goods lift spirits in Iraq

9 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Warriors from 1st Marine Division and Jim Hake, founder of Spirit of America, have similar aspirations: to help the Iraqi people and to build better relations between Americans and Iraqis.

But that's easier said than done.

According to the Spirit of America Web site, www.spiritofamerica.net, the Los Angeles-based non-profit charitable organization is helping to reach these goals by donating several tons of medical equipment, school supplies, carpentry tools and Frisbees.

"Jim Hake approached the 1st Marine Division about donating goods to the people of Iraq," said Lt. Col. John Lutkenhouse, the division's plans officer for economic development.

Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, 1st Marine Division commanding general, accepted Hake's "generous" offer.

Nearly 10,000 school supply kits, 3 tons of medical supplies and 2 tons of Frisbees were sent to Iraq's Al Anbar province, where the division is conducting security and stabilization operations.

"Right now, Civil Affairs is a big part of the division's mission here," added Lutkenhouse, of Sunnyvale, Calif. "We are working to improve the lives of the Iraqi people. If we befriend them and show them we want to help there's a less likelihood that at they will try to undermine our efforts."

He said the supplies are currently being divided amongst the division's subordinate units in the area for distribution to the locals.

Units like 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment have already begun delivering the goods.

During a recent visit to the city of Nukhayb, 2nd Lt. Robert L. Nofsinger was in charge of getting some of the equipment to the citizens.

"We donated about 30 boxes of medical supplies and sporting goods," Nofsinger, of Overland Park, Kan., said. "We're planning to come back in the future to give out more of the medical supplies that were given to us by Spirit of America."

Children in the city received some of the charity's Frisbees with the word "friendship" written in both English and Arabic.

The organization was founded in order to "help Americans serving abroad improve the lives of people in need."

On the Web site, Hake states, "It was clear to me that expanding positive interactions on the front lines could both assist those in need and help America further reflect and perpetuate the ideals for which it stands."

His actions have not gone unnoticed.

In a thank-you letter to Hake, Mattis wrote, "Spirit of America's gifts will reduce adversarial relationships and bridge cultural gaps. You have significantly impacted our ability to do good and I fervently hope reduce the potential for combat."