NEPLY, Haiti --
Beads of sweat rolled down the Marines’ foreheads, acting as a magnet for the fine, white dust that permeated the air as they cleared a pile of cinderblocks that had once formed a large house.
Marines with the Security Cooperation Marine Air Ground Task Force, Africa Partnership Station 10, currently operating from the New Missions Compound, spent the morning helping the surrounding community move damaged structures and clean up piles of rubble to improve living conditions for the Haitians after an earthquake devastated their country, Jan. 12.
With the help of local translators, Marines set to work with e-tools, shovels and brooms. Crowds of Haitians gathered to watch the progress and wave shyly at the Marines who had come to help.
"It feels good to not be sitting around any more," said Lance Cpl. Dustin Rasmussen, an intelligence analyst with the SCMAGTF. "It’s nice to see the looks on their faces, their appreciation."
Marines worked faithfully even as the sun and humidity skyrocketed, the sweat, sunscreen and bug repellant mixing into one as it ran down their faces and soaked their uniforms.
"Yeah, it’s a little on the warm side," said Lance Cpl. John Kelly, an operations clerk with the SCMAGTF, as he paused work to pass a gloved hand across his brow. "I’m just happy to be out here helping. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who wish they could be helping, and I’m privileged enough to be able to get my hands dirty."
After clearing the demolished structure, the Marines split up, moving on to other relief projects requested by the local citizens. One woman motioned a group to her tiny house, where almost every dish she owned had been shattered on the floor during the earthquake. Marines carefully removed the shards of glass with shovels and brooms, leaving a very grateful woman and a safe entryway for her children.
Only when they had finished all the tasks the Haitians asked for did the Marines return to the compound to cool off in the shade and continue to drink water.
"I’m really glad we could help," said 1st Lt. Samantha Megli, adjutant and administrative officer for the SCMAGTF. "I just wish there was more we could be doing for them."
The SCMAGTF will continue disaster relief operations and delivery of humanitarian supplies with elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and multinational United Nations forces in the upcoming days.