U.S. forces help Iraqi civilians

NASIRIYAH, Iraq -- A flimsy donkey cart rolled slowly toward the heavily guarded bridge. In it rode a teenage boy, his legs horribly burned from accidentally spilling hot oil on himself.

The boy needed help. He found it from U.S. forces.

When the Americans reached Nasiriyah after days of heavy fighting, many anticipated an angry reception. Instead, the residents offered thumbs-up signs, cups of tea and an occasional precious cigarette in return for anything from medical aid to a stick of chewing gum.

"I think they are really happy we are here," said U.S. Navy hospital worker Rashon Kyle, 31. Kyle and co-worker Kyle Morris, 39, tended to the boy after a Marine guarding the bridge spied his injured legs. The hospital workers carefully bandaged the boy's wounds.

Just as animosity against the Americans has largely dissipated, any animosity the Americans brought with them here has dissipated, too.

Cpl. Nicholas Beitia, 22, of Elko, Nev., survived a shootout on his first day in Iraq, and experienced the death of a fellow soldier. He was spooked by the chance of an ambush or a false surrender by Iraqi troops.

"At first I hated these people," acknowledged Beitia, a member of the 1st Platoon, Echo Company of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

But his attitude changed Wednesday during his first house-to-house search, when he was greeted like a long-lost relative. In one Iraqi home, he was treated to "the best tea I've ever tasted."