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FARAH PROVINCE, Delaram, Afghanistan (July 20, 2008) – Gunnery Sgt. Omar Palaciosreal and 1st Lt. Erik M. Lukas calm Miriam, a three-year-old Afghan girl, during a Marine-led health cooperative called Medical Capabilities (MEDCAP) event here. The two Marines, along with other service members assigned to TF 2/7, were instrumental in removing an infected boil from the girl’s neck. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ray Lewis)

Photo by Cpl. Ray Lewis

TF 2/7 provides medical aid to Afghan girl

21 Aug 2008 | Cpl. Ray Lewis

FARAH PROVINCE, Delaram, Afghanistan – U.S. service members serving here in support of Operation Enduring Freedom recently provided medical treatment to an Afghan girl in Afghanistan’s Farah Province.

 The team of military medical providers removed an infected abscess from the girl’s upper right neck during a health cooperative, also referred to as a Medical Capabilities (MEDCAP) event. 

This was the second such initiative led by the Marines and sailors of 3rd Civil Affairs Group, Task Force 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, part of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix.

 Three-year-old Miriam was brought into the makeshift facility barefoot and dirty by her 10-year-old brother and 1st Lt. Erik M. Lukas, an infantry officer assigned to Weapons Company, TF 2/7.

“When we brought her inside, she had boils and dirt all over her neck. I felt bad for her because I knew that it hurt,” said Lukas, who was mostly devastated by a boil on Miriam’s neck that was one and ½-inch wide and one and ¼-inch thick.

Navy Lt. Junior Grade James L. Armitage, a physician’s assistant, decided that he, his team of health providers and Lukas “had to do something” immediately.  If the boil wasn’t removed from the toddler’s body, Armitage said the boil could have potentially become a lingering health threat.

“I’m glad she trusted Americans enough to come here because I don’t know where she would’ve received the proper professional treatment she required. Especially here, the people are poor,” Armitage said.

As Lukas and her brother made the girl laugh at the operating area, Armitage prepared his medical supplies for the minor surgery. Lukas held and comforted Miriam while Armitage cleaned and numbed her neck.

 “She was screaming at the top of her lungs. She was in pain and scared because she was intimidated by everybody around her,” said Cpl. Ericka L. Garcia, the only female civil affairs Marine with 3rd CAG, TF 2/7, who was there to provide proper attention to female Afghan patients.

The medical procedure lasted about 15 minutes, but Lukas said the affects could last a lifetime.

 “That’s one of the things we’re here to do, improve their quality of life.  Like helping the sick people, we’re also helping the kids. I’m glad the little girl got help.  Missions like MEDCAPs improve the atmospherics to allow the ANP (Afghanistan National Police) to do their job better; to learn better,” Lukas said.

Armitage told Miriam’s brother through an Afghan interpreter to bring her back for an additional medical appointment.

“I think it was good because they were going to follow-up with her. They told her to come back in two days to make sure she was healing properly. These people don’t have that,” Garcia said.

Miriam left with bandages around her neck, a bag of candy and improved health.

 “She looked like one giant bandage, but she still walked away smiling,” Lukas said.
Helping the little girl turned out to be a rewarding experience that the service members will certainly remember.

“How much more gratification can you get than helping a little girl?” asked Gunnery Sgt. Omar Palaciosreal, with 3rd CAG, TF 2/7. “No ribbon, no medal, no money can replace the look on that little girl’s face. For a minute, you’re like, ‘you did your job.’”

Although Miriam was one of the more urgent patients, Armitage, and other service members supporting the MEDCAP treated more than 200 Afghan people that day.

Miriam is now recovering from her surgery in her Afghan home, thanks to the service members who continue to support various other civil affairs projects.