Marines never thought that bread would help bridge the cultural gaps between Iraqis and Americans. The simple flat bread, though, worked wonders.
Marines of 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment found this out when they foot patrolled through the Iraqi neighborhoods and rural areas here.
“It gave us a taste of what they are like and what they eat,” said Lance Cpl. Robert J. Rowland, a squad automatic gunner with I Company.
The flatbread, made with water, flour and no yeast, is prepared in the morning in outdoor stoves made of pottery, mud and fueled by charcoal, Rowland said.
Rowland is of Lebanese decent so he says he’s used to a similar kind of flatbread.
Still he said, “I’ve never had bread this fresh before.”
Iraqi women occasionally offer some fresh flatbread to the Marines who pass by, Rowland said.
“We don’t ask for it because the people are poor,” Rowland said. “But if they offer something to us, we will eat with them because it’s a sign of disrespect if we don’t eat with them.”
Rowland and his fellow Marines know now not to pass up a kind offer.
“We went into a house and we were setting up an observation post and the people were making dinner and they offered us some,” said Lance Cpl. Tristain S. Vittorelli, a squad automatic weapon gunner from I Company. “We said, ‘no,’ but they insisted that we eat.”
Marines ate some flatbread and chicken and drank chai tea with the welcoming Iraqi family, said Vittorelli, a 20 year old from Roseville, Mich.
“We had a nice little meal,” Vittorelli said. “We sat down on the floor with them and ate.”
The Marines and Iraqis didn’t say a word. An exchange of smiles showed how both parties felt.
“It’s definitely appreciated,” said Lance Cpl. Derek C. Stewart, a rifleman with I Company. “We do long patrols and we definitely appreciate when they give us some bread and some chai.”
When it’s cold, warm chai definitely makes the patrol more bearable, said Stewart, a 20 year old from Manchester, N.H.
“It’s a generous gesture,” Rowland said. “It shows that they appreciate us when we patrol through the area and keep it safe.”
“It’s very good bread,” he added “It’s nice of them, a very generous offer. It’s nice to see there are nice people.”
By Cpl. Ray Lewis