The bonds U.S. Marines have already made with local villagers in Nangalam, Afghanistan, could be worth their weight in gold in fighting the war on terrorism. And a local self storage business is joining the Marines’ call to collect items to benefit needy children of Afghanistan.

In August, Beacon Self-Storage owner Rob Kerr learned of the Marines’ project at Camp Blessing through his son, Campbell, who had received an e-mail from a friend serving in Afghanistan. First Lt. Matt Bartels is with the 2nd Battalion, 33rd Marines Echo Co. at Camp Blessing.

Kerr’s company is accepting donations to forward to Camp Blessing. So far, there are 60 boxes of materials to sort through before an initial shipment is sent.

Bartels’ battalion of 1,000 Marines arrived in northeast Afghanistan in May and operates in an area about the size of West Virginia. The Marines are located in a mountainous region near the poor village of Nangalam. Local schools and houses are situated next to the Marines’ camp.

“The kids have become very familiar and good friends at the base,” Bartels wrote in the e-mail. “They have a unique way of talking with the Marines and it is not uncommon to see the Marines giving them extra food or supplies.”

He described a three-hour firefight on the base that occurred early July. The next day, Bartels and a group of Marines spoke with the native school children about how the Marines are trying to help Afghanistan’s people.

“Following that visit, I noticed that the Marines weren’t even talking about the fight or the damage to the base, but rather how good it felt to interact with the local kids,” Bartels wrote. “So, with that said, we came up with our own little plan to help out the area. We decided instead of having our family members send packages to the Marines, we would like to shift that effort to the kids of Camp Blessing.”

Marines set up medical distribution tents, pass out school supplies, and take the time to listen and learn from the locals.

Students attending the Nangalam school nearby Camp Blessing number about 1,100 boys and 600 girls. Children sit on dirt floors during class time and lack basic supplies needed to receive an effective education, wrote Bartels, a Minnesota native.

Items needed the most include shoes, coats, pencils, erasers, markers, paper, folders and backpacks.

Bartels wrote he would pass the project along to the next Marine unit to occupy his base and ensure them of the project’s importance.

Bartels wrote that the Marines’ side project to aid local children has been a success.

“I believe this concept of aggressive and passive actions towards the local populace not only benefits the local community from which we are operating from, but also teaches the individual Marine the true concept on how to reduce the threat of terrorism in a country such as Afghanistan,” he wrote.

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