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‘Betio Bastards’ take time out for Iraq’s next generation

29 Aug 2006 | Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis

Marines here will say that if there is no other reason why they’re in Iraq – it’s for the kids.

Marines assigned to K Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment met with neighborhood kids in this small city west of Habbaniyah to show them there is a bright future for Iraq.  They made their stop during Operation Rubicon, a company-sized combat mission, Aug. 29.

The “Betio Bastards” of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment is on duty in Iraq with Regimental Combat Team 5.

“I think kids are the future of this country,” said Sgt. Michael D. Grant, a 30-year-old combat engineer squad leader from Norman, Okla., attached to K Company. “If the kids get a good upbringing they are going to run this country when they grow up.”

Marines, U.S. Army soldiers and a sailor stopped at houses to find out how they can help the local children.  The gruff Marines broke their stern stares for smiles when they got around the pint-sized children.

“You do it for the kids,” said Sgt. Jeffrey J. Swartzenfruber, a 25-year-old rifleman from Coral Springs, Fla.

He said they kids remember the watches, candy, high-fives or handshakes they got from a Marine.

At one house Marines went into, they were changed forever. The group met an Iraqi English teacher who was the mother of two children. She invited the men in for something cool to drink but it was her two-year-old son that refreshed them the most.

“I thought he was the cutest kid,” Grant said. 

He said saw a promising future in the kid’s bright-brown eyes. 

“His mom is teaching him English so he’ll grow up doing something good for his country or the people that are around him,” Grant said. 

He added that his mother hoped he would help change the future for his neighbors and even his country.  She hoped he would be the next generation of Iraqis who stand alongside Americans for a future free of terrorism.

The young boy was well mannered, greeting Marines as they entered his home.

“He even shook hands like you should,” Grant said.

Grant said he displayed his courtesy when Grant offered him a stick of chewing gum. When the boy still had the gum, Grant reached out to shake his hand.

“He took the gum out of his right hand and put it in his left hand to shake with his right,” Grant said.

A sailor with the company was also touched by the kid.  It was a reminder of his own children and his extended family.

“When we went into that house it brought me closer to home,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Adam R. Brandon, a hospital corpsman who is assigned to K Company.

The 24-year-old father of two from Nacogdoches, Texas, said it made me realize that they’re normal people just like him.

“I think back to my son, nieces and nephews at home,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy P. Hanson, a 30-year-old from Piedmont, Ala., who is a platoon sergeant with K Company.  “You feel you can provide for these kids the same way you can for yours, because they’re no different.”