NAWA, Afghanistan --
In Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a young Afghan boy ran faster than the speed of sound.
As Army Sgt. Jason Raehal drove out toward a bridge in Nawa, his vehicle filled with gifts for Afghans in honor of the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, he had a couple worries.
The first was that there wouldn’t be many people at the bridge. The second was that his vehicle, outfitted with a speaker system, wouldn’t be able to broadcast a message loud enough to reach the nearby villages.
His first concern was a valid one.
“When we got to the bridge there was just one boy and one adult,” Raehal, a team leader with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment said.
His second concern, however, was irrelevant.
Raehal greeted the adult and boy with an “Id Mubarak,” or “Happy Id,” and gave them each a new radio. By the time the second line of Raehal’s message blared from the speakers on his vehicle, the young Afghan boy had sprinted back to the village to show off his new radio and spread word that the Afghan Government and Marines were giving out gifts for Id.
While a squad of Marines from 3/3 provided security, Raehal and the Afghan National Army soldiers with him gave away more than 300 gifts to nearly 100 Afghans — all within 15 minutes of arriving at the bridge.
“By the end of it I was shocked to see so many people there,” Raehal, from Greeley, Colo., said.
Afghans approached Raehal’s interpreter, thanking him for the supplies and expressing their gratitude. The radios were in high demand, which Raehal was happy to see. A few weeks earlier Raehal had been surveying Afghans about the coalition-run radio station, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. People love the music, but more importantly, Raehal said, they love the news.
“People love the radio station,” Raehal said. “In this part of the Helmand province, with the lack of print media and the low literacy rate, the radio is a great means of communication.”
In addition to radios, gifts included coats, sporting goods, cooking utensils, hats, kites and notebooks.
Marines from 3/3 and their Afghan counterparts held three similar events across the Helmand province, targeting areas where Afghans were the most in need.
“It was a huge, huge success,” Raehal said. “It was a great goodwill gesture and it’s good to help the Afghans as much as we possibly can.”