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1st Marine Division


1st Marine Division

Camp Pendleton, CA
Heightened security allows for closer friendships

By Lance Cpl. Scott Schmidt | | November 8, 2008

Iraqi Security Force and Marine efforts have facilitated a continued lull in violence and increased the opportunity for an Iraqi infrastructure in al Anbar Province.

Lance Cpl. Roger Burda, a 25-year-old scout sniper from Daytona, Fla., with Mobile Assault Company, Task Force 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, and other Marines in the unit took advantage of the area’s stability recently, visiting the Sattack Elementary School to spend time with Iraqi children.

Marines helped the children build wooden trains and bird houses using material donated by a Lowe’s Home Improvement store in his hometown.

Burda’s mother, who works at the store and spends volunteer hours building the same toys with American children, helped him arrange the donation.  

 “We’ve made really good rapport with the locals and I wanted to give the children something to lift their spirits,” explained Burda.

 Burda planed the mission with 1st Sgt. Paul Costanzo, MAC first sergeant, who said everyone was very eager to take the toys to the children.

 “The company is always looking for opportunities to help the community,” said Costanzo. “This was one of the better chances we’ve had.”

   Burda said during his deployment last year to Iraq, humanitarian efforts were impossible because of the depleted security situation. Now security has improved allowing Marines to step back into an over-watch role, merely advising and assisting ISF where needed.

 “Things are much different from past deployments,” Burda said. “(Some schools in the area) weren’t even open and the children had no place to learn.”

 Burda said it is important that Iraq’s children understand he and other Coalition forces are here to help.

 “We are here to make a difference. The children are Iraq’s future,” Burda said.

 The day spent with the children, added Burda, left him with a feeling of accomplishment that will last long past this deployment.