Rain, shine or dust storm: Ontonagon Marine delivers in Iraq
Published Friday, November 3, 2006 3:26:40 PM Central Time

HADITHA, Iraq -- The U.S. Postal Service has a saying -- "rain or shine." They guarantee mail will be delivered even when Mother Nature is at her worst, but there's a small group of Marines taking this mantra to new heights.

The mail clerks of the Hawaii-based 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment don't care if it's raining bullets in Haditha, a city of 30,000 in Iraq's Al Anbar province, where 2nd Battalion is currently deployed. They ensure Marines get their mail.

Processing more than 12,000 pounds of incoming mail per week, Cpl. Timothy W. Brown Jr. and Lance Cpl. David M. Sirvio make up the link that connects Marines serving in this war-torn country to their loved ones back home.

"Mail is a key element for keeping guys in the fight. It boosts morale just knowing that there are people back home thinking about us and supporting us," said Brown, a 22-year-old native of Roseville, Mich.

Both Brown and Sirvio are infantrymen by trade and served in Afghanistan, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in 2005 with 2nd Battalion, so they have first hand experience as to how it feels to get a package full of life's little comforts from a loved one back home.

"This is a complete 180 from doing grunt stuff, but I really enjoy what I'm doing here. Instead of being in the fight, my job now helps everyone else stay in the fight," said Brown.

The mail clerks of 2nd Battalion are on call for incoming mail 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week and often work well into the night just to ensure the Marines get their mail.

But according to Sirvio, all the hard work is worth it.

"Working in the mail room makes it pretty hard not to be in a good mood all the time," said Sirvio, a 21-year-old native of Ontonagon, Mich. "Guys come in here who have been out patrolling and fighting for a while, and as soon as they see their name on a package they get a huge smile on their face."

One Marine in particular is exceedingly excited every time he goes to the mailroom.

Cpl. Michael Bales, a 21-year-old native of Mt. Vernon, Texas, visits the mailroom whenever he hears that a new load of mail has arrived.

Bales' wife is 13 weeks pregnant with their first child, and sends him ultrasound photos, calendars with important dates in the pregnancy and photos of the young couple's family.

Although he can't physically be there for his wife while she goes through the pregnancy, all the "care packages" -- what Marines call packages from home -- make him feel as close to her as possible, said Bales, a field radio operator.

"The calendar my wife sent me was awesome. Everyday it said something like "morning sickness" or "baby kicked," said Bales. "I can't be there firsthand to help her through the pregnancy, but because of all the mail and updates I'm getting, I feel like I'm as involved as I possibly could be."

Brown began to notice Bales' enthusiasm for mail and started keeping the to-be father's mail off to the side so it would be easier to get at when he came asking.

"It definitely makes me feel good that Bales can rely on us to get him the pictures of his child before it's born," said Brown.

Along with hundreds of care packages delivered weekly, the mail clerks are seeing the impact of a relatively new program called Moto Mail.

Moto Mail was developed to give Marines' families a much faster way of getting a letter delivered to the Marines. With an average delivery time of 12 hours to two days, a Moto Mail message is typed on the family member's computer and sent electronically to post offices overseas. From there, the receiving post office can print the message, seal it, and deliver it, just like a regular letter.

"Moto mail gets here a lot faster than regular mail, which is good for the guys on the front lines," said Sirvio. "They get to hear from their family and friends much faster."

While hearing from family and friends back home may not save lives directly, the Marines of 2nd Battalion say that hearing from their families on a regular basis helps them focus on their task at hand instead of worrying about what's happening on the home front.

"If you get that care package, letter or Moto Mail you know what's going on back home, and when you go out on patrol you're not thinking about that stuff as much. Your mind is much more in the game which makes everybody perform better," said Sirvio.

While Brown will probably never meet all the people whose packages he sorts, he is grateful that they are making him so busy, said Brown.

"I hope all the families continue to send so much stuff, because it really does make a difference to everyone out here," said Brown.

For more information on the Moto Mail program, visit: motomail.us on the Internet.