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Marines of Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, distributed jackets and shoes to children in Karmah, Iraq, Jan. 6. The clothing was donated by various charitable organizations throughout the U.S. and arrived in time to help keep children warm during Iraq's colder months.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Achilles Tsantarliotis

Generous donations help keep Karmah children warm during winter

6 Jan 2009 | Lance Cpl. Achilles Tsantarliotis

Marines of Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, distributed shoes and cold-weather jackets to children living in Karmah, Iraq, Jan. 6.

 During Karmah’s coldest months, ranging from 60 degrees during the day to freezing temperatures after dusk, many children are without winter apparel and some even without shoes on their feet.

 The battalion’s chaplain, Navy Lt. Brandon Harding, a 38-year-old from Kailua, Hawaii, with 1st Bn., 3rd Marines, initiated the effort to help Karmah’s less fortunate youth, contacting various organizations and non-profit organizations throughout the U.S. to help donate clothing several months ago at the beginning of the winter season.

 The clothing drive was the fifth the battalion has coordinated, donating approximately 4,500 pounds of clothing overall.

 “The response has been overwhelming,” Harding said. “It’s amazing to see how generous Americans are. Hopefully it helps [Iraqi people] see we’re good people.”

 Iraqi children lined up by the dozens, patiently waiting to receive a pair of shoes and a jacket to combat the biting cold at sundown.

 The children were more than enthusiastic and could not stop smiling and thanking the Marines and sailors for the valued donations.

 “It’s very good,” said Hamid Naief, a father of seven residing in central Karmah. “From the first time [Coalition forces] got here, things have been very good. This shows the generosity first hand.”

 Naief said even as the city’s economic situation slowly improves, it is still difficult to afford clothing for his children and he can not say enough about how much the donation helps his family at such pivotal time.

 “We need it so much,” he said. “I do not like seeing the kids go to school or to play with bare feet and without jackets. The Americans helping us means so much. They are our friends and we thank them.”

 Aside from the countless children walking off with new shoes and coats, modeling to their friends their newfound spoils, the clothing drive further promotes relationships with Karmah’s citizens.

 Marines trained in urban warfare performed a completely unrelated task assuming the role of shoe-salesmen and fashion consultant by helping groups of young children select different shoes, mindful of complementary colors for their new jackets.

 Although the Marines’ training went untested during the clothing drive, most of them were enthusiastic about helping less-fortunate children.

 “On one side, we just lost a Marine yet we’re giving (Iraqis) clothes,” said Lance Cpl. Derek Nelson, a 21-year-old team leader from Chino Hills, Calif., with 2nd Platoon, C Company, 1st Bn., 3rd Marines.

“But on the other side – they’re just little kids,” he further explained. “They don’t know (about the complexities of war) and they have to go to school in the freezing cold without shoes or jackets. It feels good to help them, and it’ll just keep helping us gain support from the local people. They know we’re helping.”