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Soldiers’ Work Helps Iraqi Children

By Army 1st Lt. Nicholas Griffo
Special to American Forces Press Service

BASRA, Iraq, Jan. 19, 2010 – While working to revitalize a southern Iraq community, a platoon of soldiers came in contact with local children who have none of the things Westerners take for granted. So a platoon leader made a phone call to make a difference.

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Children of Abu Skeer, a village in Iraq’s Basra province, react to the school supplies given to them by U.S. civil affairs soldiers. U.S. Army photo
  

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Just over five months ago, soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, left Fort Lewis, Wash., for a yearlong deployment to Iraq. Their mission is to work with the Iraqi police and military to rebuild infrastructure, create a safe environment and improve relations with Iraqi communities.

Noticing almost immediately the conditions in which the village children live and play, 2nd Platoon, “B” Battery soldiers agreed that creating a safe environment meant something more.

The platoon enlisted the help of Jennine Griffo, wife of Army 1st Lt. Nicholas Griffo, to organize a toy and school-supply drive in the Washington state auditor’s office for the local Iraqi children.

In a month, the drive raised more than 60 pounds of school supplies and toys, as well as enough money to ship them to Iraq.

In addition to art supplies, coloring books, crayons, stuffed animals, baby toys and general school supplies, the platoon also received 15 soccer balls donated by Wembley Soccer Shop.

Over the course of a few weeks, the soldiers handed out the supplies to various villages in the Basra region, including Abu Skeeris. The village is within the platoon’s patrol area. The soldiers have been working with a civil affairs team there to build a soccer field and repair the water plant.

The villagers in Abu Skeer and other towns in the area were grateful, and they invited the soldiers to visit the area often.

The smiles on the children’s faces when they received something as small as a stuffed bear will be a lasting image in their minds, the soldiers said. And the generosity and compassion of the soldiers, the workers in the state auditor’s office and all the people who donated items to the toy drive have greatly improved the relations and trust the soldiers enjoy with the villagers, they added.

Jennine Griffo recently presented certificates of appreciation from the 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment and the 17th Fires Brigade to State Auditor Brian Sonntag at the state capital of Olympia in recognition of the help and support.

(Army 1st Lt. Nicholas Griffo serves with 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment.)

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U.S. Forces Iraq

Click photo for screen-resolution imageJennine Griffo and Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag exhibit certificates of appreciation soldiers of 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, and 17th Fires Brigade for their contribution to the mission and to the Iraqi children in and around Basra, Iraq. Courtesy photo  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy 1st Lt. Nicholas Griffo visits with children during a patrol in Iraq’s Basra province. U.S. Army photo  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Spc. Christopher Harvey hands out stuffed animals to children in Abu Skeer, a village in Iraq’s Basra province. U.S. Army photo  
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