MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The 5th Marine Regiment hosted an estimated 1,100 mothers and daughters from the non-profit National Charity League who made it their mission to ensure every deployed Marine or sailor receives a gift, when they prepared 2,400 care packages during the 4th Annual Operation Valentine at Camp San Mateo, Jan. 9.
Even in the golden age of the internet there are parts of Afghanistan that are so barren the World Wide Web is inaccessible to those Marines and sailors deployed there.
This unfortunate, but understandable dilemma makes mail call even more precious since a hand-written letter or self-made care package may help ease the stress, anxiety, boredom and uncertainty of being in a combat zone.
However, there is an unfortunate reality that exists. A small portion of those Marines and sailors deployed to Afghanistan never look up when they hear the call for mail.
“Our goal is to show gratitude and support to all Marines and sailors serving our country,” said Pam Roy, chairperson for Operation Valentine 2011.
The packages, which will be sent to three deployed battalions from the 1st Marine Division, were filled with combat boot socks, sanitary wipes, hand sanitizer, foot powder, snacks and other highly coveted items.
This year, the NCL also took female Marines into consideration, and produced 100 special care packages for members of deployed female engagement teams.
While NCL members got special thanks from the 1st Marine Division commanding general, Maj. Gen. Michael R. Regner, and the commanding officer of the 5th Marine Regiment, Col. Willard Buhl, the day was centered on thanking deployed Marines and sailors, and giving the young women of the NCL a greater understanding about the sacrifices of American service members.
NCL member Yukie Meyers said letting the young women of the NCL, such as her daughter Kelsey, fill care packages with such simple items as sun screen gave them a better understanding about being thankful for what they have.
“To make it real is to actually be here and see the needs in a little box,” said Meyers, from Irvine, Calif.
The event also gave the local communities’ young women a prospective of the military which television and hearsay cannot, added Meyers.
“They see it in the movies and that’s not it,” said Meyers. “This is the kind of event that makes it real for them.”
Each package also received a personalized Valentine’s Day card, written by NCL members, thanking the package’s recipient for his or her service.
While packages are not sent to a specific Marine or sailor, many NCL members were hoping their package reached a service member who does not often receive mail.
“I couldn’t imagine being deployed and not hearing from someone,” said Meghan Cutler, an 18-year-old NCL member from Coto de Caza, Calif. “It doesn’t take much time to sit down and write a letter telling someone you are thankful for what they do for you, your peers and your country”.
To show thanks for the NCL’s support, 5th Marines hosted static displays, drill demonstrations and put league members through the regiment’s indoor simulated marksmanship trainer to provide the mothers and daughters with a better understanding of the Marine Corps.
While NCL members were grateful of their hosts they were quick to point out their efforts were of self-sacrifice in recognition of those who risk sacrificing everything for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“We do not do this to receive thanks, we do this to give thanks,” said Roy. “We are honored to support [the Marines and sailors].”