CAMP SMITTY, Iraq -- An Iraqi family had just set the noon meal on the table when some unexpected visitors knocked on their front door.
Marines from Regimental Combat Team 5, I Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, delivered a brand new pediatric wheelchair to the family of a disabled little girl in the town of Al Hasa, March 16.
“We knew we had to help out in some way,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Evers, a platoon commander for Company I. “We don’t have a miracle cure, but we can at least give her a new wheelchair.”
The girl’s condition came to the company’s attention in January, during a routine patrol of the area. When her family brought her outside, Marines saw she had an old, rusty wheelchair, built for an adult.
“The girl was injured in a car accident two years ago,” said Evers, 27, from Lewiston, Idaho. “When we were there the first time, her father showed us x-rays of her spine. It’s actually separated.”
The girl’s parents, brothers and sisters greeted the returning Marines with smiles and hello’s even before they presented the new wheelchair.
“They seemed pretty happy about it,” said Cpl. Matthew Rivera, a squad leader. “When we first came in they looked surprised. Then we brought in the chair and their faces lit up.”
Moments after the Marines presented the gift, the girl’s father lifted her out of the old chair, placed her in the new one, shook the platoon commander’s hand, and said “Thank you.” He was so overjoyed, he repeated twice more.
The Marines left the home almost as quickly as they arrived, boarded amphibious assault vehicles and returned to Camp Smitty.
“I hope we make a difference with them, and left some kind of impression on these people,” Rivera said.
The battalion’s mission goes beyond maintaining security in the area and fighting the enemy, said Navy Seaman Yem Sophat, a hospital corpsman assigned to I Co.
“Besides combat, we help a lot of unfortunate people in this country,” said Sophat, 25, from Pomona, Calif. “I wish we could do more.”
“I wish I could give that little girl new legs to help her walk again,” said Rivera, 21, from Hereford, Texas.
“She’s adorable,” Sophat added.