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1st Marine Division

Camp Pendleton, CA
RCT-5 Supplies Local School with Tools of Learning

By Capt. Paul Greenberg | | November 11, 2008

Coalition forces from Regimental Combat Team 5 partnered up with local Iraqi Police Nov. 11 to provide more than 250 girls from Intifathatil Aqsah Primary School in Rutbah with a cornucopia of items to help start the school year off right.

More than 300 pounds of supplies were purchased and shipped by American citizens from throughout the United States to the troops in Iraq. 

The boxes included English as a second language (ESL) learning materials, dictionaries, notebooks, binders, pens, pencils and new shoes, as well as mathematics and athletic equipment and an array of music and art supplies. 

The Marines and sailors who collected, loaded and hauled the items were from Company G, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, headquartered in Garden City, N.Y.  The unit is currently attached to Regimental Combat Team 5.

Gillian Grant, a 40-year-old English instructor from Dallas, Texas, sent the ESL textbooks, along with notebooks and various other classroom essentials. 

“I want our troops in Iraq and the people of Iraq to know we care about them and remember them.  I am honored to be able to do a small little thing like collecting school supplies and books and sending them to Iraq for distribution,” said Grant, who has been teaching for more than 12 years and is currently an instructor at the Intensive English Language Institute at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.  Grant’s teaching career has taken her across the U.S. and into countries such as Burma, Turkey and the Central African Republic. 

Many other supplies came from America Supports You (ASY) organizations, such as Operation Care Package, which is spearheaded by Debbie Smothers, 50, from Joliet, Ill.

“Our mission is to let no hero be forgotten through letters of support and care packages.  Every one of our men and women who serve our country, no matter where, should know that we support and stand behind them,” said Smothers, who founded the organization in 2003 when her brother, a U.S. Army Green Beret, was deployed overseas in support of the Global War on Terror.

“I was told school supplies were needed and very happy to find troops who are willing and able to give them to those in need.  Plus, how wonderful a feeling it must be for the American serviceman who hands a child this gift of items that they normally would not have,” said Smothers, whose weekly goal is to send 150 packages overseas, in addition to working full-time as a laborer and road crew with a construction company.  “These items will help make a difference in the lives of so many children and their families.  I pray that the children remember the kindness of our troops in years to come and it makes a difference in the way they think of Americans.” 

In addition to the school supplies and new clothing, the Marines of 2nd Bn., 25th Marines also delivered about 200 stuffed animals to the school girls, aged between 6 and 12.  About half were donated by 10-year-old Emilee Walls in Little River, S.C., and shipped to Iraq by her mother, Debbie, at the family’s personal expense. 

“I think what you are doing for the kids is nice,” wrote Emilee in a letter, which accompanied the parcel.  “I would like to donate my stuffed animals because I know they will make (the Iraqi children) happy and smile.” 

Emilee’s brother is an active duty Marine currently deployed with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and her father is a retired Marine Corps chief warrant officer.  The Walls family is one of thousands around America who mail stuffed animals to U.S. troops overseas on behalf of Beanies for Baghdad, another ASY organization started in Kuwait in 2003.

Rushra Ahmed Hameed, 48, has served as principal of Antafatha Al Aksah for the past five years.  She has taught and spent more than 26 years in school administration. 

Hameed’s dedication to her school runs deep.  She and her son, who was 18 at the time, lived on the school grounds for several months during the country’s tumult in 2003 to fly a white flag to let Coalition forces know that no insurgents were occupying the school and to keep the facility safe from looters.

“I would like to thank all the good people in America who sent these supplies,” said Hameed through an interpreter.  “In these hard times, some children’s families can not even afford to buy pencils.  These students are the future of Iraq.”

In order to show their appreciation, Hameed directed the girls to write thank-you letters to the people back in the States who sent the items.  The Marines will have the letters translated into English and mailed back home.

According to Hameed, the school supply delivery fulfilled a promise for assistance made by another Marine unit stationed here about two years ago.

With the significant decrease in insurgent violence in Rutbah over the past year, 2nd Bn., 25th Marines is shifting their focus of effort from traditional security operations to developing critical infrastructure, such as the local educational system.

“Many of these items were bought and sent here to Iraq by working class people in America to show you our goodwill,” said 2nd Lt. Dwayne Edwards, the patrol leader from Company G, when addressing a group of 35 students in the school’s courtyard with the help of an interpreter. 

“These items come to you from mothers, fathers and grandparents from all over America,” emphasized Edwards, a 26-year-old Reserve Marine from New York City.  “They are hard-working people like your teachers, policemen and city councilmen here who care about your education.  They are from us, to you, with love."