Afghan Boy Finds Help, Friends in America's Battalion
By Cpl. Rich Mattingly, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, May 24, 2005 Children suffering from difficult-to-treat medical conditions in rural Afghanistan may have no better friend than the U.S. Marines of "America's Battalion."
Over the course of their deployment to Afghanistan, the Marines and Navy corpsmen of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, have come to the aid of several children who were not receiving treatment for serious injuries.
One teenager, Syed Ullah, recently received a prosthetic eye after Marines on patrol in Nagalam learned of his wounds.
"Last year an insurgent's 107 mm rocket landed in Syed's village during an indiscriminate attack that has become the mainstay of (the insurgents') tactics," said Marine 1st Lt. Justin Bellman, executive officer of the 3rd Marines' Company I. "The rocket sent shrapnel into his face and arms, disfiguring him."
At the time, coalition forces flew Syed to Bagram Air Base for medical attention, Bellman said. "But despite sewing up numerous wounds and reconstructing Syed's nose, the doctors could not save his left eye," he said.
Syed was promised a prosthetic eye by the coalition forces and went back to his village to wait. He thought he had been forgotten when Marines came upon him during a patrol through his village.
With the help of the Parwan provincial reconstruction team and Task Force Victory, both located at Bagram Air Base, Syed was transported back to Bagram to receive an evaluation at the Egyptian hospital. The Egyptian doctors determined that his eye socket would support a prosthetic eye.
Petty Officer 1st Class Rodrigo Martin, a Navy corpsman with the Marine unit, joined Syed and traveled to Kabul for the prosthetic fitting at the Nor Eye Hospital in Kabul.
"He was a bit nervous about the whole process," Martin said of Syed's reaction to driving through the busy traffic of Kabul. "He's from a very small village where life is much different than it is in Kabul."
Once in Kabul, the doctors were able to examine Syed and fit him for an eye on the same day. He returned to Bagram and was homeward bound the next day. "I am very grateful for the Americans' help," Syed said through an interpreter. "My family and I will be praying for their safety."
"We try to do everything we can for Afghans we encounter who need medical treatment," Martin explained. "Sometimes we can't help, but when we can it's a really great feeling."
"It's important to show the Afghan people that no matter what unit is here, the coalition is working together to fulfill our commitments," Bellman said.
(Marine Cpl. Rich Mattingly is assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines.)