By Lance Corporal Ray Lewis, 1st Marine Division
Navy Seaman Samuel L. Blanco is a healer. The hospital corpsman geared up in layers of body armor has a bag of tricks he carries that's not just healing the bumps and bruises, scrapes and cuts, but also relations and trust between Americans and local Iraqis.
Blanco provided health care for dozens of Iraqis during a combat patrol with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, through an Iraqi village here September 23.
"From an American view, it gives us a sense of pride to know that Iraqi's would come to us," said Blanco, a 26-year-old from Justin, Texas, assigned to Weapons Company.
He said less that two months ago, Iraqis in this area west of Fallujah were hesitant to even speak to him or the Marines when they first started serving under Regimental Combat Team 5. The mood is changing though. Now, instead of leery stares, parents are bringing their children forward to get a once-over from "Doc" Blanco.
"When they get a serious problem, they can come to us," said Lance Cpl. Paul J. Burns, a mortarman with 81mm Platoon. "They're starting to get close to us and recognizing the 'Doc'." The 22-year-old from Dayton, Ohio, said the locals could pick out the resident medical expert by his calm persona.
"Soon as they found out that I was a 'Doc' everybody was like, 'fix me, fix me, bandage," Blanco said. He doesn't mind it. He said he enjoys contact with the Iraqis.
"Doc's not afraid to get hands-on with the residents," said Lance Cpl. Liam E. Izar, a mortarman with Weapons company. The 20-year-old gunner from Chardon, Ohio, said it's great having him around. "he helps us focus on doing our job," he said.
One time he helped divert a health concern to him while Marines continued conducting combat operations. It was a scary situation for the child in need, but one that left him feeling better and his parents a little more trusting of Marines.
"A guy brought me his kid to fix," Blanco said. "He had a bruise with a laceration. The kid was crying and scared to death of me. I fixed him up and he was smiling when we left."
Blanco cherishes those moments. He said he's doing what he signed up to do. He's helping people, no matter nationality or situation. He's healing bodies and minds.
"It's a humbling experience when people depend on you out here," Blanco said. "It's very rewarding."
Blanco said that helping Iraqis is bigger than himself. It's that one act of common human concern that's bringing American and Iraqis closer.
"It's good to know that we're doing good things for people," he said. "It puts a good feeling in your heart."