CAMP RIPPER, Iraq --
Marines and sailors deployed with Regimental Combat Team 5 are among the service members benefiting from the altruism of generous individuals and organizations this holiday season.
Seasonal snacks, warm socks and games are among the various items sent to Marines and sailors from Americans showing their appreciation for their armed forces.
“To me, every Marine and sailor is like my own son or daughter,” said Patti Lewis, president of Mom 4 R Marines, a group that has displayed great generosity toward the Marines and sailors of RCT-5. “I know they are the best trained military our nation has, and I know they are young adults and brave warriors.”
Almost 1,000 stockings from Mom 4 R Marines were received in time for distribution to the troops before Christmas. Another 1,000 stockings came from the Central Illinois Proud Families of Marines and were distributed to Marines and sailors at combat outposts and forward operating bases throughout western al-Anbar province.
In addition, holiday care packages from groups like the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group have come through with consistency since Thanksgiving.
“I think it shows how high we are in (people’s) priorities,” said Lance Cpl. Michael Dunn, 20, a mail clerk with RCT-5 from Carthage, Texas. “They’re still managing to send these packages out at a constant rate.”
After the incoming care packages and holiday gifts are received by the regimental mail room, most of the boxes are taken to the chapel annex, where the religious-services team takes over. They sort the items within the care packages to make it easier for Marines and sailors to find the essential items they need.
“The chaplain corps handles the health and welfare aspect for Marines and sailors,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Gerad Hardin, 27, a religious programs specialist with RCT-5 from Texarkana, Ark. “The chaplains want the warriors here to feel special and loved, and let them know people from home care about them.”
The Marines and sailors routinely marvel at the thought and care that go into the care packages. The Cup of Joe building on Camp Ripper – one of many throughout the province where RCT-5 personnel can get a warm beverage like hot chocolate or tea any time of day – hold a large box full of home-baked cookies with hand-written and decorated messages of thanks and well wishes from people in the States.
“People spend a lot of time and effort on the care packages,” Dunn said. “These care packages and stockings are not cheap to send out here. Marines open them up, and there are really nice things in them.
“It’s nice that they send them out here to Marines and sailors they don’t know, and they don’t ask anything in return,” Dunn added.
One question some service members ask is, “Why?” What makes the American people give to the troops that are deployed?
“All I hope for is it brings them a smile and also reassures them that our Nation will never forget them,” said Lewis, whose own son, Brian, was a Marine who served with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. “We stand behind them and what they do daily on behalf of our country. They deserve the best!”
“I think it is people saying to us that ‘no matter what you’re doing, you’re loved, you’re appreciated, we do care, you’re protecting us and this is a small token, but please accept it for what it is,’” said Hardin. “The American people want to show their good faith to us.”
Far away from homes and families this holiday season, Marines and sailors of RCT-5 are feeling the love from America, and say thank you right back.