FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq -- The future of Iraq rests in the hearts and minds of its children. With that idea in mind, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit has begun delivering supplies to its local schools. However, during these visits, they began to notice a problem bigger than missing chalkboards and broken desks - the children's health.
As the ailments of the local population were brought to their attention, the Marines and sailors of MEU Service Support Group 24 stepped up to the task of providing basic medical care.
"A lot of children at the school were sick or injured," said 1st Lt. Keith Dillard, 31, a Mount Vernon, N.Y., native and a logistics officer with MSSG-24. "When we were delivering school supplies, the headmaster would ask us if there was anything we cold do (to help them. Now), wherever we go, we have two corpsmen available to see the students or (people in the) community."
During a recent check-up, they discovered a boy who had fallen victim to local terrorist activities.
"One child I saw only had two fingers left on his hand (due to) an (improvised explosive device) he found," said Seaman Jere Coughlin, 26, a corpsman with MSSG-24. "The wound had already healed, so I gave him (a) bandage ... he likes to keep it covered."
Transforming a schoolroom into a mini-clinic, the corpsmen addressed many illnesses, including respiratory problems, abdominal pain and sore throats. They were able to assess the severity of someone's condition within minutes. Illnesses ranged from severe ailments to simple medical concerns.
"During sickcall, I've had (over) 60 people in line to see me," added Coughlin. "I had to (evaluate everyone to find) the 10 legitimate patients, and provide them some relief."
The primary goal for the Marines and sailors involved in this effort is for the local Iraqi people to understand that they truly care about their well-being.
"This isn't just a project," said Dillard. "As we do more, we hope they see that we care. We take a (genuine) interest in (wanting to) help them."
The MEU also donated more than $5,000 worth of medical supplies -- such as bandages, medications and blood-pressure cuffs -- to a local medical clinic, enabling them to provide better care for the members of their community.
"The Iraqi doctors and nurses will now have more capabilities for treating the common cold to (performing) more (complicated) procedures," said Chief Petty Officer Christopher Hill, 37, a Yukon, Okla., native and medical chief for MSSG-24.
Despite the impossibility of providing continuing care for their patients, each corpsman is still eager to be involved with the local Iraqis.
"When you go out, you hope to (make the people well), but you never know what good you do because you never see them again," said Coughlin. "We just try to show our compassion and better their lives because they've had it so rough for so long."