Police ‘semper fi’ to Marines in Iraq

PBA donations earn appreciation of tank battalion

By:Mary Ellen Zangara
   For eight months, Sgt. Britt Higgins of the United States Marines has been serving our country in Iraq.
   Sgt. Higgins is a former resident now residing in North Carolina at the Camp Lejune base. Having been in the Marines for six years, he has two years left on his enlistment.
   As he was on his ship traveling the horn of Africa, making his way from Liberia to Iraq, he was often reminded of his hometown of Manville.
   He returned to the U.S. in October and came home to Manville last week with his wife and two children to visit his parents, Robin and Chester Higgins, his brother Chester and sister Amanda, of South 17th Avenue.
   He also spent some time with his friends.
   While Sgt. Higgins was in town, he paid a visit to the Manville Police Department to say "thanks." The Manville PBA collected and donated items and sent packages to the hometown Marine.
   Officer John Granahan began the drive because he was in the Marines and he knew what they needed.
   "I thought we needed to do our part," he said. "We starting collecting things and sent it to the Red Cross and personal Marines we knew from town. We sent to Britt, Melissa Kattner, Michael George and one of our officer’s brother.
   "We figured we would try to help out the local people we knew. We tried to get the basics — shaving cream, phone cards, lotions, Visine, Kool aid — just things like that," he said.
   At the station, Sgt. Higgins came with a special gift for the department. He presented them with a plaque.
   He read the inscription aloud to Officers Granahan, Craig Jeremiah, and PBA president Ron Gazaway.
   "I would like to thank local PBA 236 for your support during Operation Iraqi Freedom for patriotism and undying devotion to our troops, which is greatly appreciated from the Marines of Tank Platoon Battalion 1918 26th Marine Expedition unit," he said.
   As he described the symbols on the plaque, he continued, "We have a photo of our whole platoon and this is a remnant of a main gun tank drought. There is little story behind this.
   "It was given to me from my tank gunner. He killed an Iraqi tank with it and brought it back for me, and I just wanted to give it to you guys!"
   He then presented it to the three policemen.
   Sgt. Higgins continued thanking the department for their donations.
   "The Marines really appreciate it," he said. "It’s people like you and the nice thing about it, you get it from your own hometown — the small, nice, blue collar like here. The phone cards I distributed out to the guys — it was nice to get stuff from back home here. I’d really like to thank each and every one of you here it was really great. It really boosted up the moral. I just wanted to come down here and say thanks."
   "It is nice to seethe face on the other side," Officer Gazaway said. He was glad to finally meet Sgt. Higgins after all these months.
   "We received your letter that you were grateful and we posted it up. It was a great letter and all the guys loved it," he said.
   As he was on and off the ship, Sgt. Higgins told the officers about some of his experiences.
   "I received it (the packages) right before we were getting off the boat to fly out to Iraq," Sgt. Higgins said. "It was really nice. There were some guys that were staying behind and I gave them the phone cards."
   He was part of a Marine expeditionary unit and their task was to be a quick response to the Mediterranean region of the world.
   They traveled the horn of Africa, Liberia and to another country he couldn’t specify because of the current operations there.
   While on the ship, he would take his turn with the off load on land and upload back onto the ship. But most of the time was spent on the ship.
   "It’s not a whole lot of fun when you’re stuck on the ship for a while. You go up on the deck, take a deep breath of air and see nothing but ocean."
   One highlight of fun for Sgt. Higgins was on his old tank crew. "I had a Marine from Bound Brook and we basically discussed Bound Brook and Manville rivalry as far as sports were concerned. We got on each other a little bit," he said.
   Before he left, Sgt. Higgins again thanked the officers.
   "We just wanted to say thank you to all of you," he said. "For what it is worth, nobody else in my unit got anything except from some family members, but nothing like this. That’s what I like about this tight knit community of Manville."