Detachment delivers notes, school supplies to Afghan kids
November 28, 2007
The Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, when deployed to Afghanistan recently, delivered school supplies to more than 750 Afghan children donated by Okinawa families and stateside friends, said the battalion’s commander.
The detachment deployed from Okinawa in July as an embedded training team attached to a U.S. Army unit to train Afghan’s army infantry.
When Lt. Col. Curt Williamson, the battalion’s commander, saw the impoverished conditions of schools in rural villages, he said he was compelled to do something.
He asked his wife, a teacher at Bechtel Elementary School on Camp McTureous, to start a school supply drive in October.
Page Williamson coordinated with the school and stateside friends in Kansas, Texas, Florida, South Carolina and Washington, asking for pens, notebooks and folders.
After six weeks, more than 750 sets of school supplies — rulers, crayon and watercolor sets, scissors, and thousands of pens and pencils — were collected and shipped to her husband’s unit.
Some classes also sent personal messages, he said.
A Bechtel first-grade class drew pictures bearing the message, “Be Happy.”
Two Myrtle Beach, S.C., classes wrote and signed messages with purple thumbprints next to their names, a typical Afghan custom when signing a letter, he said.
Supplies were delivered to three schools in Saw, an impoverished village in the Konar River valley of northeastern Afghanistan.
“It was Spartan at best,” Sgt. Maj. David Zapp said of conditions there.
After four months in country, Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Owens, a corpsman, said he had seen poor living conditions but “still expected the school to be more of an example of Western civilization.”
He said schoolchildren expressed “pure happiness” when receiving the school supplies.
“It was by far one of the most emotionally rewarding experiences of my military career,” Owens said.