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Lance Cpl. Brandon M. Barnes, 21, a team leader from Fairbanks, Ala., assigned to I Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, holds out one of the comic books that Marines pass out to Iraqi children at Camp Hit, Iraq, April 10. Barnes' uncle and mom sent him packages with comic books in them. Barnes' decided to hand out the comics he doesn't read to the kids in the city. Before Marines give them away, he scans the comics for any pictures that may be offensive to the Iraqi people.

Photo by Cpl Erik Villagran

Marine brings super heroes to Iraq

10 Apr 2008 | Cpl. Erik Villagran

Lance Cpl. Brandon M. Barnes is a Marine who grew up reading comic books and idolizing the super heroes in them. His passion for comics continues, and he's sharing it with the children of Hit, Iraq.

Barnes, 21, a team leader with I Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 5, from Fairbanks, Alaska, and the Marines in his team have been passing out comics to lucky kids during their foot patrols through the city. The mission, which they've labeled Operation Bringing Iraq Super Heroes, wouldn't have been possible without Barnes' family.

"My uncle and mom sent me a bunch of comic books because I like them," Barnes said. "They bought them in bulk and there's a bunch I don't like, so I figured I'd pass them out to the kids. Who doesn't like comic books?"

Early into their operation, Marines haven't found a child who doesn't want a comic. When they patrol throughout the city, kids approach them and are quickly drawn to the colorful covers of the comics. They take the books without hesitation.

"At first they wonder what the comics are because it isn't candy," said Lance Cpl. Miguel F. Alvarez, 20, a rifleman from La Habra, Calif. "Once they look at the pictures though, they get excited."

And that is exactly the reaction Barnes wanted. He hands out comic books so that the kids could have something to hold on to. They still hand out candy, but the kids seem to enjoy the comics just as much, if not more.

"I think they're a little better than candy because they actually can keep it to look (again)," said Barnes. "They'll be able to look at it and remember the Marine who gave it to them."

Marines in Barnes' team said they agree with the idea of giving the kids something to look at for a long time. They know the children can't read the books, but will still enjoy flipping through the pages.

"I think it's cool to give them stuff like this," Alvarez said. "I know they don't all have TVs to see cartoons, so we give them something to look at. Since the pages are cartoons, you know they are going to like them."

Occasionally, after Marines handed a kid a comic book, the child's parents called their child over to see what Marines had handed them. This didn't bother Barnes because he had already taken precautions prior to handing out the comics.

"We look through the comics to make sure there is nothing (offensive to) their culture in them," Barnes said.

Barnes' efforts have illustrated a little about his character and his willingness to bring joy to Iraqi children.

"It's great that he's not selfish," Alvarez said. "He gives something to kids who have nothing just so they can be happy."

And now, children in Hit, like Barnes once did, may dream of growing up to become super heroes.