AL TAQADDUM, Iraq --
Editors note: the names of the Iraqi women and children are withheld for their protection.
AL TAQADDUM, Iraq – A team consisting of five female Marines from the 1st Marine Logistics Group and two female interpreters conducted a census patrol in a nearby town here, Feb. 23.
The Iraqi Women’s Engagement Team was able to meet and talk with the local Iraqi females without the men around.
A variety of topics were discussed, from any assistance they may need to how the American military has helped them make a better way of life.
“It was an eye opener,” said Sgt.Veronica Deleon, 26, a member of the IWE team, from Bassett, Calif. “We realized Iraqi people are ordinary individuals that want an opportunity at life and a future for their children, just like we do.”
The IWE team was able to meet with more than half of the female adult population of the town.
Before enjoying a traditional Iraqi meal and Chai, the IWE questioned the Iraqi women about what issues they may need assistance with.
The items brought up repeatedly were the need for better electricity, financial assistance, medical facilities and chlorine tablets for their drinking water.
Regarding the electricity, they said they only have power a few hours each evening. U.S. military recently provided them a generator, but they can’t afford the fuel to run it. An elderly lady from the town said, “The Americans helped us. They got us the generator, the least we could do is provide the fuel.”
Many of the women have husbands who have either been killed or are detained. Because of this, the women are in need of financial assistance.
One lady said her husband has been missing for over a year. He left behind seven kids whom the wife is trying to provide for. She said the Iraqi government gives her a bit of money each month, but the amount falls far short of what she needs.
There is also a great need for permanent medical facilities in the town. The Iraqi government provides a “traveling doctor” who visits every now and then, but the women expressed their need of a permanent facility, to include a doctor specialized in female needs.
“The closest medical facility is in Tourist Town,” one said, “but that’s too far to walk for those of us who don’t have cars.”
She mentioned a young boy in the neighborhood who fell off a roof a few months ago. He is in need of surgery for damage done to his eye and a hole remaining in his ear. “We can’t get him to Syria because we don’t have a car and if we were able to get him there, we can’t afford the actual surgery.”
The American military has been assisting with incidents requiring minor medical attention.
Another young boy in the town had recently submerged his hands in hot cooking oil. “The Americans, you helped him. He is doing much better. Thank you very much for helping him.”
They also expressed their need for jobs. Since a few of their husbands are missing or detained somewhere, the women want to work to raise money for their children to eat. Several were excited, upon hearing of a possible job opening in a hotel in nearby Tourist Town.
Another woman, whose two sons had recently received jobs in Tourist Town cleaning, said things are looking much better in Iraq. “With the American’s help, Baghdad is even getting better.”
“I am really thankful for the projects in Habbaniyah. Both my sons have jobs because of you. The Americans always help me. The Americans care for us more than our own people. They give us mercy.”
“(The visit) made us aware of why we are here and how important it is to conduct these missions so we can continue to earn and keep their trust,” said Deleon.