An Afghan gentleman begged a squad of Marines, out on a routine visit to a village in southern Afghanistan, to come to his nephew’s rescue. They entered the man’s compound and found a 10-year-old boy curled up in pain from severe burns over his back.
This group of Marines normally spend their days training Afghanistan security forces, but had witnessed many injuries to their own unit members due to enemy ambush with explosives. Even so, finding a child in this condition was a much different experience, according to Navy corpsman Seaman Markie Smith, from Syracuse, N.Y., who responded to the family’s pleas for help.
In the end, the Afgan child along with his family witnessed the compassion of coalition forces and will remember their actions for a long time.
“The boy had third degree burns over his entire back and his right arm,” said Smith. “I started treating him, pulling off his bandages, which his family said were 20 days old.”
It took ‘Doc’ about 15 minutes to pull the bandages out of the scar tissue. “The skin was deteriorating,” he said.
The corpsman worked carefully to undo nearly a month of inadequate medical attention, while the child’s father helped console him. The boy was in extreme pain.
The sailor (pictured in center, below) was almost as distressed, and said, “It kind of hit me…But this is my job. I can’t let that get in the way.”
Smith applied burn dressing to help kill the major infection that was quickly spreading. According to him, had the villager not asked the Marines to come to the child’s aid, it probably would have taken about two weeks before the child went into critical condition, and eventually died.
The Marines on the scene, from the 1st Platoon, Bravo Battery, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Staff Sgt. Luke Gilliland (pictured on left) of Phoenix, Ariz. and 1st Lt. Clayton Jarolimek, (not pictured) from Forest River, N.D., spoke to the boy’s father through a translator.
The boy’s family was ecstatic that the corpsman and Marines could treat the child’s injuries. But, with virtually no medical capability in the nearby Afghan villages, Jarolimek wasn’t about to stop there. The injuries were so serious that the chances for follow-on infections without proper treatment were tremendous. He coordinated for the boy to be flown to the Camp Bastion Hospital for additional treatment, where he ultimately received a skin graft.
Unfortunately, Jarolimek was not able to personally witness the boy’s medical progression. During another patrol in the area, he and one of his junior Marines were hit with an IED and had to be medically evacuated from the country.
“The lieutenant put a lot of his heart into what we do out here,” said Gilliland. “Getting this going and helping the kid to get help was chalked up as a win in his mind. I know in the seven months he spent out here, if that’s all he was able to do, I know he’d go home happy with that.”
We Won A lot of People Over
“With the Afghan boy’s age,” Gilliland said, “he’s kind of on a line where he could either resort to the Taliban side, and be influenced by them, or fall to our side. We won another one over.”
It won a lot of people over.
“It helped with the local rapport,” said Lance Cpl. Bradley Thornburg, (pictured on right, above) a gunner with the platoon and Dallas, Texas, native, who was also there the day the squad helped the boy, and continues to visit the village. “We’re able to provide things for them that they’re unable to do. In return, they’re more open with us.”
“They’re starting to realize that we offer a lot more,” said Gilliland. “We bring a lot more to the table. We’re actually there to help them. It looks like they’re starting to open up and understand the coalition is there to assist them.”
An Afghan child along with his family witnessed the compassion of coalition forces and now they have a brighter future. And, according to the Marines and sailors involved, they saved yet another child among the scores of children they save nearly on a daily basis – often because of the Taliban’s IEDs or stray gunfire. In a war where the measure of success seems to be gauged by trust earned with the people of Afghanistan, the coalition here is defeating the Taliban with mere acts of humanity every single day. (Right, file photo, Defense Dept.)