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A corporal with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines poses with some new friends in Afghanistan. The Okinawa-based Marines deployed to Afghanistan in July as an Embedded Training Team with a U.S. Army unit.

A corporal with 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines poses with some new friends in Afghanistan. The Okinawa-based Marines deployed to Afghanistan in July as an Embedded Training Team with a U.S. Army unit. (Courtesy of 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines)

CAMP McTUREOUS, Okinawa — Okinawa Marines deployed in Afghanistan are calling for donations of school supplies for more than 1,200 deprived children there.

The Marines — from 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines — went to Afghanistan in July as an Embedded Training Team attached to an Afghan National Army unit. There, they have witnessed the harsh conditions for Afghan school children and a lack of basic school supplies, said Lt. Col. Curt Williamson, the battalion’s commander.

“Most children sit on the ground, under a tree, with no writing implements or paper,” Williamson said in an e-mail from Afghanistan.

When the Marines provided one village school with a small supply of notebooks and pens, they reciprocated with a thank-you note, he said.

“This wasn’t an ordinary thank you,” Williamson said. “This was a folder with hundreds of signatures, page after page, with each child’s purple thumbprint next to their name. It was humbling to say the least.”

As a father of three, Williamson felt compelled to do what he could to improve those conditions, he said in his e-mail.

So he asked his wife, Page Williamson, a kindergarten teacher at Bechtel Elementary on Camp McTureous, to coordinate the donation drive for school supplies.

Page Williamson said she felt a little overwhelmed at first, but then she realized that her teaching position at Bechtel, her involvement in the Camp Courtney chapel and the couple’s network of family and friends stateside put her in a good position to help.

And so the Afghan children school supply donation drive was started.

“The country and people are quite rugged,” Williamson said in his e-mail. “Their needs are not sophisticated, but their supplies have to be durable.”

Wire-bound notebooks with 100 to 300 pages, any type of folders with pockets and Bic pens top the list of supplies needed.

“The basic plastic Bic pen with a cap that allows one to clip it on their shirt pocket is key,” he said.

“In Afghanistan, if you wear a pen in your shirt pocket it is a symbol of literacy,” he said. “These are school kids, they want credit for their work, and take great pride in the title of student.”

However much is collected, “we’ll find a home for it,” he said.

To donate ...

Items specifically requested:

100- to 300-page wire-bound notebooksFolders with pocketsBlack or blue Bic pensWhere to donate:

Donation boxes are located at Bechtel Elementary School on Camp McTureous, the Camp Courtney Chapel and 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, on Camp Hansen. Donations will be accepted until Oct. 13.

— Cindy Fisher

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