Families of deployed military personnel cope in different ways. Some avoid newspapers, TV news and the internet because they donâ€™t want to worry about what is taking place. Wanda Patton, mother of deployed U. S. Marine Adam Patton, did just the opposite.
â€œWhen my son joined the Marines in 2007, I became an information gatherer,â€ Patton said. â€œThatâ€™s how I dealt with him being there. I wanted to know everything I could about the Marines and what he might be doing.â€
While participating in an online forum in October 2008, Patton saw a posting that said, â€œOperation Santa USMC, volunteers needed.â€ When she clicked on the posting, she learned about a program to send loaded Christmas stockings to U. S. Marines serving our country.
The program began in 2004 in Oregon. Patton and another local Marine mom, Mimi Rhyne, first organized a Christmas stocking drive in Lincoln County in 2008.
â€œTo participate, we had to provide stockings for an entire platoon, which is 30 Marines,â€ Patton said. â€œWe wondered if we could pull it off in just four weeks.â€
The group exceeded the 30-stocking requirement and provided 102 fully stuffed stockings the first year. Their efforts have grown every year since, with 331 stockings provided in 2009, 600 in 2010 and 1,000 this year.
The 1,000 stockings were shipped to troops in Afghanistan Nov. 19 so that they will arrive in time for Christmas Day. The postage alone cost $3,965.
Local businesses, churches, organizations and individuals all pitch in to make the annual stocking drive a success. The local detachment of the Marine Corps League and the American Legion are faithful contributors.
To stretch the dollars as far as possible requires some expert shopping skills. Patton credits her husband, Alex, with helping in the shopping department.
â€œHe is a master haggler,â€ Wanda Patton said. â€œWe found an overstock of stockings at a Wal-Mart at the beach after Christmas last year and he sought out the store manager. We ended up getting 1,000 stockings for less than $200.â€
Each stocking includes items that those on the home front may take for granted, but are absolute necessities for military personnel. Each kit includes two pairs of socks, along with baby wipes and foot powder.
â€œWe learned early on that one of the few safe places for them to travel is through sewage canals, because those cannot be loaded with weapons,â€ Patton said.
The kits also contain disposable razors, toothbrush and toothpaste, eye wash to use following sand storms, crackers, granola bars, acetaminophen, hard candy and chewing gum. The completed stocking is placed inside a plastic zip bag with a card made by a local school student as well as a traditional Christmas card signed by an individual.
Want to help next year?
Although this yearâ€™s drive is complete, help will be needed for the 2012 campaign. For more information on how to help, visit the groupâ€™s Facebook page â€œNorth Carolina Operation Santa USMCâ€ or their website ncoperationsantausmc.webs.com.