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    Soldiers bring joy to Iraqi children in need

    Soldiers bring joy to Iraqi children in need

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Kelly Lecompte | An excited child receives a bag of toys and school supplies from Spc. Michael Petro...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Kelly Lecompte 

    30th Armored Brigade Combat Team

    BAGHDAD — A man pulls toys from a giant bag, while his comrades try to keep the growing crowd of excited children in an orderly line as they wait their turn.

    It's December, but the temperature is nearly 60 degrees. Instead of a wintery-white snow, the mostly bare little feet run across dusty and muddy earth towards men wearing camouflage and smiles.

    Two Soldiers of Company B, 252nd Combined Arms Battalion, organized the surprise toy delivery for children living just outside the walls of Forward Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad, where the Smithfield-based unit is serving.

    Spc. Michael Petro, an infantryman, said he had the idea to start collecting goodies for the children after driving past their neighborhood to and from missions in the Baghdad area.

    "It's one of the poorest areas that we drive through," Petro, of West Chester, Pa., said. "Every day that we drive through that area the kids come out running and waving...there's plenty of kids and families that have a lot less than we do."

    Spc. Garrett Manis, a fellow infantryman, said he had similar sentiments about the area and wanted to help.

    "We drive by that area all the time, and they're frequently bare footed...and they always run out, waving their hands, hoping we'll stop and give them something; and you think, 'That's really not a whole lot to do,' and it could potentially have a tremendous impact in some kid's life," Manis, of Chapel Hill, N.C., said.

    Petro said it all started with an email.

    "I just sent my mom an email just basically saying, 'Instead of sending me stuff, send stuff for the kids,' and then she forwarded that along, and that got forwarded along and it was really just an avalanche. What was originally intended to be just a few boxes here and there turned into an [a two-and-a-half ton cargo vehicle] full of clothes and school supplies and toys."

    The Soldiers said the idea spread across the home front, growing bigger than they ever imagined.

    "People at home really went above and beyond what I had ever envisioned," Petro said. "Going down to mail-call every day and five more boxes came in, seven more boxes came in, eight more boxes came in; it was really kind of unbelievable how it snowballed."

    "My aunt did a drive; she's an administrative assistant at Durham Academy," Manis said. "She sent like ten boxes or so that they collected from the school. I got a lot from all over. It kind of just took off, it started as just an idea to get a few things together."

    The shipments started arriving in September, and the duo collected the boxes in a larger storage room in their barracks, waiting for the chance to hand it all out. Petro said because of the company's busy mission schedule, it took a while before they had a chance to make the stop. After much anticipation, they finally got their chance; just in time for the Christmas holiday.

    "I was actually hoping to do it a lot sooner, but just because of our mission schedule and the way things worked out, it happened to be closer to the holidays, which is kind of nice," Petro said.



    Date Taken: 12.14.2009
    Date Posted: 12.14.2009 02:36
    Story ID: 42713
    Location: BAGHDAD, IQ 

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