RAWAH, Iraq -- In a town set on the Euphrates River, 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, two Marines stood calmly as a group of local Iraqi men surrounded them.
Although Marines from the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion had posted security up and down the street in the city of roughly 30,000 people, ready for any situation, Maj. Sean Quinlan’s hands weren’t anywhere near his own weapon.
Instead, his hands were gripping those of the elderly men around him in friendly greeting. Mostly former school teachers, the Iraqi’s told Quinlan, the commanding officer for the Company D “Outlaws,” about exactly what he could do for them to make their city better.
During the patrol, it meant helping out a 3-year-old girl, daughter to one of the Iraqi elders.
Months back, in her innocent curiosity, she pulled a pot of boiling liquid from the stove. Marines remember ushering the family’s vehicle quickly through checkpoints to get the child to a hospital to treat her severe burns.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Derek Parker, a 25-year-old Navy corpsman from Morris, Okla., joined Quinlan and the rest of the group to see how he could help with the girl’s constant pain.
At the time, Parker didn’t have any ointment or medication that could help the girl, so Quinlan made a promise to the men. Several hours later, that promise was fulfilled when the Outlaws returned with supplies.
“Her father put his hand over his heart, looked me in the eye and shook my hand,” said Parker, who has children of his own. “The family was very happy with us, they really seemed to like that we cared so much about them.”
The majority of the people in Rawah don’t want to hurt Marines, said Quinlan. In fact, it seems as though the vast majority of the population are good people who want to live a calm, normal life, he said.
“It’s all about random acts of kindness,” Quinlan reiterated to his Marines after the patrol. “It’s not all about fighting the insurgents; we need to show the people that we care.”
Actions speak louder than words, and although most Marines aren’t anywhere near fluent in Arabic, their generosity is a language local people can understand.
After a chance encounter with a family of 12 who live away from the city, in a tent tending a farm, Marines found themselves wanting to “go the extra mile” to help improve their living conditions.
The “Outlaws” arrived at the remote farm with bunk beds, mattresses, blankets and toys.
Local Iraqi Police, who work side-by-side with the Marines, brought clothes to the family.
“Little things like that really help us win over the people,” said Parker. “When people see us trying to help them, they try to help us.”
Recently, Marines were warned by locals of an improvised explosive device that could have wounded or killed several of them.
The instances of insurgency in the area are growing less and less frequent, the Marines say. This is partially due to locals questioning outsiders extensively when they move into their neighborhoods, deterring insurgents from other parts of the country.
“They’re working with us,” said Parker. “I think us being here, and the way we act, has influenced them to take more pride in their community, in their city.”