FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Children crowded the doorways to their classrooms May 16, eager to catch a glimpse of Marines and Iraqi Police, their latest visitors during a visit to their school.
Marines in 2nd Platoon of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, worked side-by-side with the Iraqi Police in the city of Fallujah to distribute soccer balls and numerous other supplies to students at two schools.
Since the war began, only 30 percent of Iraq’s 3.5 million students are currently attending classes. Thousands of students have been forced to stay home because of escalating violence throughout the country, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Education.
Coalition Forces and the Iraqi Police are helping remedy the unfortunate situation with the schools in Fallujah by assisting in any way possible, whether it is dropping off supplies or helping rebuild areas in and around the schools, said Hibba Hassan al-Quraishy, a teacher at one of the visited schools.
“The number of students in our schools has changed many times,” al-Quraishy said. “We would like to keep a steady number of students and the only way for (that to happen) is if our countries continue to work together.”
The Iraqi Police, headed by Col. Faisal, Fallujah’s Chief of Police, entered the schools along with a handful of Marines from various units, while Marines with Company E maintained a perimeter outside to ensure the safety of everyone delivering supplies in the school.
“The Marines are helping us out,” said Faisal after one student pointed out to the Marines standing outside the door.
The student’s faces lit up as the Marines walked around the school grounds carrying bags of soccer balls. Handing out a number of them to each class, the Marines and Iraqi Police went to dozens of classes throughout the schools only to be warmly accepted by the children.
“Salām,” the students said as the visitors entered the classrooms. Salām directly translates to “peace;” however, it is commonly used with a hand gesture over ones chest to say hello.
The Marines and Iraqi Police returned the greetings as they handed out supplies to the students.
“The way a lot the kids look at us, it seems like it’s the first time they have seen Americans,” said 20-year-old Plantation, Fla., native, Cpl. Joseph A. Delillo, a squad leader with 2nd Platoon, as he watched a group of students pass in front of his vehicle.
Throughout the months of the battalion’s deployment, Marines from numerous platoons in the “Ready Battalion” have and will continue to deliver school supplies and other goods to schools in the immediate areas near the unit’s forward operating bases and observation posts.
“I’m grateful for this,” al-Quraishy said. “We have had the Marines visit us before and hopefully they return. (They) are always welcome.”