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Pvt. Jake Lybrook worked at his Marine base in Husaybah, Iraq, near the Syrian border, while the other American men voted the nation's 50 most eligible bachelors by Cosmopolitian magazine partied in New York City.
Pvt. Jake Lybrook worked at his Marine base in Husaybah, Iraq, near the Syrian border, while the other American men voted the nation's 50 most eligible bachelors by Cosmopolitian magazine partied in New York City. (Andrew Tilghman / S&S)
Pvt. Jake Lybrook worked at his Marine base in Husaybah, Iraq, near the Syrian border, while the other American men voted the nation's 50 most eligible bachelors by Cosmopolitian magazine partied in New York City.
Pvt. Jake Lybrook worked at his Marine base in Husaybah, Iraq, near the Syrian border, while the other American men voted the nation's 50 most eligible bachelors by Cosmopolitian magazine partied in New York City. (Andrew Tilghman / S&S)
Lance Cpl. Christopher Thomas seeks help with his Arabic Language studies from an Iraqi Army soldier in Husaybah.
Lance Cpl. Christopher Thomas seeks help with his Arabic Language studies from an Iraqi Army soldier in Husaybah. (Andrew Tilghman / S&S)

There are thousands of young women at home who want to meet Pvt. Jake Lybrook.

A glossy photo of the 21-year-old from Erie, Pa., appeared in the November issue of Cosmopolitan magazine as part of “Cosmo’s Bachelor Blowout 2005.”

“It was pretty cool, I guess,” Lybrook said shortly after finishing the seven-day battle pushing through the Syrian border town of Husaybah, Iraq.

One of America’s most widely read women’s magazines, Cosmopolitan selected one man from each state for the article, a “showcase of some of the most eligible studs in the nation.” Lybrook was chosen to represent North Carolina, where he was stationed at Camp Lejune in Jacksonville, N.C.

Lybrook said his mother and sister entered him in the contest and after he was selected, he went to New York City for a photo shoot and formal interview. The magazine listed critical information like what kind of women he likes and where he takes a woman on a first date.

“It was all this girly stuff,” he said, appearing somewhat embarrassed about discussing the matter in front of other Marines.

Lybrook missed out on a Cosmo party in New York last month that brought the magazine’s selected bachelors together with talent agents and television producers. Several others chosen appeared on TV shows, including “The Regis and Kelly Show” and “The Today Show” on NBC.

“I missed out on everything that was cool about it,” Lybrook said.

The magazine piece included an e-mail address, and Lybrook said he has received hundreds of messages from women in the States, as well as some in Europe and South America.

“Most of them just said stuff like, ‘Oh, we really want to thank you for what you’re doing over there,’” he said.

New toy, bad habitThe children of western Iraqi border towns have a new toy since the Marines rolled through earlier this month — the MRE bomb.

Local children here like to take the chemical heaters found in the Marines’ Meals Ready to Eat and seal them off in water bottles until pressure builds up.

“Eventually it pops,” said Cpl. William Spangenberg, a 30-year-old from Greensboro, N.C., who works in a civil affairs unit here.

Marines say they’ve seen kids all over town throwing bursting water bottles.

“I guess that’s for the kids who don’t have soccer balls,” Spangenberg said.

Learning the languageCpl. Christopher Thomas, a 19-year-old from eastern Pennsylvania, has become a self-appointed cultural ambassador in western Iraq.

Thomas, trained as a machine gunner, was sent to a brief Arabic language school before his deployment and has been making a daily effort to learn the language with the help of the Iraqi Army units working with the Marines.

“I love them. Most of the Iraqi soldiers are solid, decent guys,” he said after chatting with some of them around a fire.

Thomas often carries a tattered notebook filed with handwritten vocabulary words and phrases that he uses in conversation and constantly updates.

Iraqi soldiers often invite Thomas to join them for dinner. “I love their food; they can really cook. And that tea they drink — the chai — I love that stuff,” he said.

Thomas said many of his fellow Marines have little contact with Iraqis and find his interest in local culture odd.

“Somebody said to me ‘You should get an “I ‘heart’ Haji” tattoo on my arm,’” Thomas said, using an Arabic term many troops use for locals and which, literally, is an honorific Arabic title for a Muslim who has made a religious pilgrimage to Mecca.

“I have a lot of compassion for these guys. This mission is for the Iraqi people, it’s not for us.”

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