CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- Nothing appeals to a deployed Marine’s sensible side this time of year like a warm pair of socks.
Give a Marine a sock filled with goodies, and you just might see a smile.
In December 2006, “Operation Stocking Stuffer” delivered 1,300 holiday stockings to service members in Iraq, about 260 of which were distributed here.
“It’s nice to see that we have people back home who support us out here,” said Lance Cpl. Willie L. Ray, a generator mechanic with Maintenance Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
Ray, a 20-year-old from Norwich, N.Y., looked up from his stocking: “It makes me feel good.”
The program started in 2004 when Pavel and Julie Ann Ivanov, residents of Gilbert, Ariz., decided to send 40 holiday stockings to their deployed son and the other Marines in his unit.
Others began contributing to the effort, and instead of sending 40 holiday stockings in 2004, the Ivanovs turned out 900, said Sgt. Gregory D. Hill, manager of Camp Taqaddum’s “bunker” exchange, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
Hill was deployed with Pavel and Julie Ann’s son in 2004. He has since become a friend to the family and liaison between the Ivanovs and Marines at Camp Taqaddum.
Operation Stocking Stuffer now has the support of Girl Scout troops from Oklahoma and Arkansas, churches in Georgia and Mississippi, and families from California, Oregon, Massachusetts and Arizona.
These groups not only contribute gift items and hand-written letters to the project, but also the funds needed to mail the items overseas, said Hill.
The stockings are personalized with the Marine Corps emblem (an eagle, globe and anchor), and stuffed with items ranging from energy bars and hand warmers to disposable cameras and video games.
Regardless of their contents, all stockings have one thing in common.
“(Julie Ann) tells me that when they squeeze the air out of the care packages, they do it with a hug, to symbolize a hug for all the troops out here,” said Hill, a 22-year-old from La Grande, Ore. “It adds a personal touch to all of it.”
The Ivanovs also sent a letter of appreciation in every care package to thank Marines for their “commitment to instill liberty, freedom and justice to a people for whom many have no mercy.”
We take time to thank you, ‘The Generation of Hope,’ for all that you are doing to bring hope to the hopeless,” the letter continued.
Sgt. Glenn R. Ray, a 24-year-old retail manager at the Lakeside exchange, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), helped distribute the holiday care packages and expressed his gratitude for those who supported Operation Stocking Stuffer.
“It’s people like that who make our country solid,” said Ray, a native of Hart, Mich. “It’s people like that who make us want to fight everyday.”