AFGHANISTAN - First one Afghan appears, then another and another. Within minutes, Afghan children surround the patrolling Marine, Feb. 22. The sight is familiar to Lance Cpl. Edgar Lima, an assaultman, for 2nd Squad, 1st Platoon, Lima Company.
“Today a bunch of children gathered around me,” said Lima, currently deployed with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “They came around and I just started making funny faces at them; they just burst out laughing.”
Lima, a native of San Diego, uses humor to interact with local Afghan children. He said he knows what a blessing it is to have the children there.
“Our last deployment, we didn’t see that many locals, and that many children coming up to us,” said Lima, a graduate of Mission Bay High School in San Diego. “Now they can go and move around, and have a better sense of security. They can just live their lives now.”
As the pointman, Lima was the first Marine in the patrol, and the first Marine the children saw. Children, ranging from toddler to preteens, surround the Marine, reaching out for handshakes.
The Marines pass through the crowd, giving high fives to the children and offering snacks, while patrolling through the village.
Corporal David Wood, Lima’s squad leader, deployed with 3rd Battalion, 7 Marine Regiment, to Sangin last year.
“This year is completely different,” said Wood. “Last year, when we were in Sangin, Afghanistan, there wasn’t a lot of interaction with the locals. This year it’s completely different. Kids always come up to you and ask you questions. I’m glad I came back to Sangin, because I got to see that transition.”
During the patrol, Lima took a knee, while Wood talked to some local Afghans. Two children came to Lima, asking for chocolate. Lima politely responded he didn’t have any, smiling at the kids.
Suddenly the two boys started laughing, drawing the attention of other local children.
With his dark sunglasses on, Lima was contorting his face, and sticking his tongue out to make the children laugh. Soon more children came to see what the commotion was about, joining in the laughter.
When it was time for the patrol to move on, Lima stood up, with his new fans following after, and continued on the patrol, leaving a trail of laughing children in his wake.
Wood, who has known Lima for more than 2 years, said he’s not surprised Lima jokes with the local children.
“He’s the kind of guy that if someone is having a hard time, he’ll be there with a joke to make them laugh,” added Wood.
As a sweeper, Lima doesn’t let his humor hinder him from his job of finding improvised explosive devices and keeping the Marines behind him safe.
Wood said that Lima hasn’t steered him wrong. He takes his job seriously and on one occasion he helped identify a 40-pound charge with 39 sticks of dynamite.
Lima said he sees his interaction with the children as part of his job.
“I try to show them we aren’t just a faceless person in body armor and dark sunglasses,” said Lima.
He added he sees humor as a basic human connection, and no matter where you are, if you show a kid a funny face he’ll laugh. Adding that his interactions with the children have a positive effect on the rest of the people.
“The kids will start laughing and I’ll see an older gentleman coming down the street and he’ll crack a smile,” added Lima. “It shows them that we aren’t faceless and they can come up to us with issues, problems and questions that they have.”
The Marines hope to approach the locals with questions of their own.
“On today’s patrol, we went out to talk to as many local people as we could,” said Wood. “We are trying to establish good relationships with the locals for the unit that replaces us.”
In a few months 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment will leave Sangin, Afghanistan and another battalion will take over, and smiling Afghan children will surround new Marines. As for Lima, he’s looking forward to two things when he gets back.
“I miss my mom’s cooking,” said Lima with a grin. “And one thing I can’t wait for is sitting on my porch and drinking a cup of coffee.”
Editor’s Note: The 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines are currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6, which is part of Task Force Leatherneck. Second Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck, the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest), and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
This work, San Diego native uses humor to connect with people of Afghanistan, by Sgt Timothy Lenzo, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.