AR RAMADI, Iraq -- A young, Iraqi boy in the city here has Cpl. Michael L. Godfrey to thank for saving him from a life-threatening illness.
The 21-year-old noncommissioned officer with 5th Civil Affairs Group, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, spearheaded efforts to have the toddler admitted into a local hospital and treated for a severe urinary tract infection.
Godfrey was conducting a routine patrol through a neighborhood less than a week ago when he discovered the ailing child.
“I was going through finding out the basic needs of the people living there and what might be done to improve their standard of living,” said the Mount Zion, Md., native. “I gave a kid a Band-Aid for a blister he had on his hand, and soon I was swarmed by other kids wanting some. There wasn’t anything wrong with them, though, they just wanted to have Band-Aids, too.”
A few minutes after the 2001 North Caroline High School graduate issued the adhesive bandage, an elderly lady approached him carrying a young boy.
“She held him up to me so I could see him,” Godfrey said. “He had an open wound that covered his whole penis. There was pus and blood in places where it shouldn’t be. I’m no doctor, but I could tell right away he needed medical attention.”
According to Godfrey, the boy looked as though he was in a lot of pain.
"His body was limp, and he looked spaced out,” he said. “It seemed like he’d been hurting so long that he was used to it.”
At the time, Godfrey couldn’t do anything for the child except feel sorry for him.
When Godfrey returned to his base, Camp Hurricane Point, he told Maj. Benjamin B. Busch, Team 1 leader, Detachment 3, 5th CAG, what he saw.
Busch could tell the boy was in danger from what Godfrey told him. He sent a corpsman to do an assessment on the boy’s health.
“The corpsman determined the infection was very severe and, if left untreated, it could enter his kidneys and cause them to fail,” said Busch, a 36-year-old College Park, Md native.
The boy’s family couldn’t take him to the hospital for treatment because they didn’t have enough money, Godfrey said.
“They are very poor and come from a poor neighborhood,” he said. “They don’t even have enough money for a taxi there.”
After learning the severity of the boy’s condition, Busch coordinated a mission for 5th CAG and Company W with the infantry battalion that would enable them to get the boy to the hospital and receive medical attention.
“There is something pure and necessary about the rescue of an innocent child that answers to our best intentions here,” said Busch.
Their operation, however, wasn’t as simple as picking him up at his house and making the short trip to the hospital.
The six Marines with 5th CAG created a diversion in an effort to keep local residents from intruding and to protect the privacy of the family, said Godfrey.
Marines with Company W secured the neighborhood while the Marines with 5th CAG split up into teams of two.
Sergeant Hector Martinez Jr. and Gunnery Sgt. Wayne B. McClam handed out soccer balls, dolls, clothes and wristwatches to children in the street. Minutes after the gift giving began, the area was bustling with smiling and laughing children.
Meanwhile, Busch, Godfrey and Ricky Wissam, their translator, went to the boy’s house and explained to his mother the reason for their surprise visit.
“We told her we’re here to give her money to pay for a taxi to take the boy to the hospital,” said Godfrey. “We told her to wait for a while after we leave to do so, though. It won’t look suspicious that way.”
Prior to the mission, Busch organized for a doctor at the hospital to treat the boy when he arrived.
Wissam wrote the doctor’s name on a piece of paper and gave it to the mother so she would know who to seek out. She was also given enough money to pay for return visits while her son undergoes treatment.
“It rejuvenates our connection to the Iraqi people through unbiased compassion and I feel this kind of act is essential during ongoing combat operations in this complicated city,” Busch said. “Corporal Godfrey built that connection today as a Marine, as an American and as an individual.”
The Marines’ act of kindness brought a smile to the mother’s face and tears to her eye. Godfrey was also touched.
“I’ve never saved a life before,” he said. “It feels great. I guess God put us together for that reason. So he could live.”