Saturday, October 07, 2006

"Marines become big brothers to Iraqi children"

This isn't the Old Man's unit, but I thought it was a nice story. He told me once that gaining trust from the Iraqi citizens and the Iraqi army has been their biggest battle so far...

Marine Corps News
Sept. 23, 2006
By Lance Cpl. Ray Lewis, 1st Marine Division

HUSAYBA, Iraq - Navy Seaman Samuel L. Blanco, a hospital corpsman snuggles with Iraqi children during a combat patrol Sept. 23. He and the Marines of Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment paused the patrol to spend time with the kids. Blanco is a 25-year-old from Justin, Texas and serves under Regimental Combat Team 5 and will be conducting operations in the Habbaniyah area for seven months.

HUSAYBA, Iraq (Sept. 23, 2006) -- Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment paused a combat patrol through a neighborhood here to spend time with local Iraqi children Sept. 22.

“They’ll grow up, see Americans and say, ‘I remember this one guy that was nice to me, so I’ll be nice to them,’” said Navy Seaman Samuel L. Blanco, a hospital corpsman with Weapons Company.

Blanco said it shows a different side of them.

“We got all that gear on, so I’m sure were intimidating,” he said. “It shows them that were human and not machines.”

As soon as the Marines put boots on the ground, kids were eager to meet them.

“Even though we were patrolling, they wanted to play and talk to us,” said Pfc. Ryan L. Ward, a mortarman with Weapons Company.

The Marines kept moving, but some kids still tried to join the patrol. They were particularly drawn to the Marines’ corpsman.

“They always like him a lot,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew M. Woody, a 19-year-old from Indianapolis, Ind., who is a mortarman with Weapons Company.

Woody thinks it is Blanco’s calm demeanor.

The kids greeted Blanco with open arms, hugging and snuggling the surprised sailor. Blanco said the experience was unique.

“Usually they’re stand-offish,” he said. “That was the first time they were like all over me. That time made me feel like they trusted me.”

Even the parents were surprised. Even they couldn’t help but to crack a smile. Many of the Marines were convinced that both parties left with a different perception of each other.

“I think it’s good that they finally have someone to talk to and take care of their needs as a father figure,” Woody said.

Blanco thinks interaction with the kids is one of the most important things Marines and sailors do in Iraq.

“It’s gratifying,” he said. “I got a nephew back home about their age, and I know if their current situation was reversed I’d want somebody to show compassion towards me.”

Ward agreed.

“In the long run it’ll slow insurgency because they’ll see that were trying to help,” he said.

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