CAMP RIPPER, Iraq --
Despite a dust storm that covered the camp here June 30, Marines quickly unloaded the recent shipment of care packages from one of the many support groups in Southern California that work to keep the morale high for the Marines and sailors with Regimental Combat Team 5.
One of the groups that support the Marines of RCT-5 while they are deployed is the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group.
“The purpose and mission of the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group is simple, support and care for our Fifth Marines, sailors and their families when deployed or at home,” said Pete Hammer, president of the group and a retired Marine.
Groups such as the Dana Point 5th Marines Support Group; Words of Comfort, Hope and Promise; and the Monarch Beach Sunrise Rotary Club have sent hundreds of care packages in support of RCT-5 since it deployed to western Anbar province, Iraq, in January.
Items in the care packages range from candy to socks to movies and always help raise the morale of the Marines here. Many of the care packages also include letters from children who wrote the letters as part of a class project at their school.
“I really like the letters from the kids,” said Lance Cpl. Stewart Peterson, 22, an administrative clerk with Headquarters Company, RCT-5, who spent two months at Combat Outpost Timberwolf. “I have my own kids, but they are not old enough yet to write.”
Support from groups and communities near Camp Pendleton, Calif., is not new for RCT-5 and the battalions that are apart of it. Since 2004, the Dana Point 5th Marines Support Group and Words of Comfort, Hope and Promise have been sending care packages and supporting service members and families with RCT-5.
“In November of 2004, we adopted 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and celebrated Christmas 2004 with the military families,” said Cynthia Martinez, founder and president of Words of Comfort, Hope and Promise, a military outreach in San Clemente, Calif., that is dedicated to supporting troops and their families. “(We) have supported 5th Marine Regiment ever since.”
To get the items needed to fill the care packages, the groups will often look to the local communities for donations. In addition to collecting donations, the groups conduct fundraisers and events such as car washes to raise money to purchase additional items and cover the shipping costs of sending the packages overseas.
Several local businesses have joined in as well to help raise money and collect items. One restaurant exchanges appetizers for donated goods, and another restaurant donates a $1 every time a certain menu item is ordered.
Collecting items for the care packages and raising money for the shipping cost is only part of the job that the support groups have to do in order to get the items to RCT-5. The items still need to packaged and shipped, which includes filling out custom forms for every box.
“I plan ahead and have the custom forms and labels filled out in advance,” said Martinez. “It took us three and a half hours to set up and organize, and (the next day) it took us four hours to package and to send out the care packages.”
All of efforts of the groups and those who have contributed to the care packages have not gone unnoticed by the service members of RCT-5.
“Support like this from the home front is humbling,” said Lt. Col. Robert “Ogre” McCarthy, executive officer, RCT-5. “To know there is such a ground swell of support at home only makes us stronger. All of our Southern California supporters are rock stars.”