A Day in Iraq

As the violence in Iraq has wound down, so has the news coverage. What are you missing?

Orphanage receives help from Iraqi community, 2/9 Marines

Story and photos by Cpl. Ryan Turnage

SOFIYA, Iraq Through the winding dirt roads, across miles of farmland, a community of widows and orphans have settled in a place known as Sofiya in the eastern al Anbar province. Resources are scarce, so Iraqis are working with the Marines of Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6, to aid those in need.

Many of the families lost their brothers, fathers, husbands and sons during the turbulent times that were once characteristic of al Anbar. Now, one man devotes his time to helping the families of the fallen.

Sheik Jasem Mohammed, the tribal leader in Sofiya, has been organizing and conducting efforts with Weapons Company to help his community during rough times. Mohammed understands that the effects of conflict continue long after the triggers were pulled.

“We have been distributing bags of supplies from the Marines to all the poor families, and we are so grateful,” said Mohammed.

Blankets, hygiene items, school supplies and other necessities were given to each family. Children’s faces filled with joy as Seaman Darryn Howard and Pvt. Glenn Cocagne handed out gifts to orphans of all ages.

“It’s a great feeling to see the huge smiles on all the children’s faces when I hand them something as simple as a blanket,” said Howard.

Over the course of six months, Mohammed and 1st Lt. Andrew Szwejbka, commanding officer of Weapons Company, have formed a very strong friendship during this ongoing community outreach effort, said Szwejbka.

“I’m honored to have met Sheik Jasem and I’m going to miss coming out here to help,” said Szwejbka.

The two leaders discussed upcoming plans to provide medical supplies and vitamins to the community. While the local Iraqi citizens are fortunate enough to have a doctor in the area, supplies are inadequate for the current amount of cases he deals with, said Mohammed.

“Although we are leaving Iraq soon, I plan to start delivering medical supplies as soon as possible,” said Szwejbka.

Mohammed predicts their community will become an independent town in the near future. Until then, Mohammed and the Marines of Weapons Company are continuing to

care for the Sofiya community and assist them as they become self-sustaining.

For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit http://www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd .

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