AN NASIRIYAH, Iraq -- Sitting in the shade under the warm afternoon sun, Marines, from Trailer Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 2/1, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) gathered around a home cooked meal prepared by a local resident whose street they've been protecting since April 13.
Zaed, who the Marines know only on a first name basis, wanted to show his gratitude to the service members who freed him and his family from the evil of Saddam's regime.
Eagerly awaiting the entrée Zaed made for them, the Marines started to guess what he might bring them.
"I didn't know what he was going to bring out for us, I just hope he brings some more bread with him," said Cpl. William C. Johnson Jr., 23, a Forks, Wash. native, rifleman, Trailer Platoon. "Ever since we've been out here he's always been very nice and polite."
While some waited outside the front gate, Lance Cpl. Jimmy Davie, 23, a Philadelphia native, combat administrative clerk, Command Element, 15th MEU (SOC), decided to make his "candy pocket" a little lighter by giving some suckers to two little boys.
"I like to show the children the softer side of the Marines. The children of Iraq have a bright future," Davie said. "Keeping them at ease plays a vital role in the re-building of Iraq, and any part that I play in it, makes me feel that much better."
Smiling to greet his new American friends, Zaed, carried a bowl full of lamb meat, marinated in his special sauce, and a bag of fresh bread. Clearing a spot in front of his home, Zaed, invited the Marines to sit down and enjoy the meal.
Almost immediately, Marines attacked the bowl and start to eat. Slices of onions and tomatoes mixed in the sauce covered the Marines fingers and faces as they devoured the food.
"The meat was very good," Johnson said. "It feels really good that the locals support us and that they are doing this for us."
Two minutes later Zaed brought out a vegetable plate filled with ripe tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and fresh onions. In addition to the vegetable plate, he brought out hot tea for the Marines to wash down their food.
"The best part of the whole meal was the tea," said Cpl. Clinton H. Fields, 22, a Duluth, Ga., native. "Everything was good, but the tea, in my opinion was better than Oriental Tea."
The once loud gossip outside Zaed's place had now turned into a quite murmur as the Marines quietly enjoyed the food.
"This was the first time we have had a decent meal for two and a half months," said Sgt. Ben Conner, 26, a team leader with Trailer Platoon. "All we've been eating are [Meals Ready to Eat], and this was definitely a good thing."
Marines sat a talked with Zaed, as most of them lit up a cigarette, after finishing the meal.
"What you guys have done is a good thing, [President George W.] Bush is a good man," Zaed said. "This goes to show that Iraqis and Americans can get along in peace."
After they all finished their cigarettes, the Marines thanked him and went back to patrolling the streets.