CAMP RIPPER, Iraq --
Thanks to concerned citizens sending donated goods to servicemembers in Iraq, ecstatic Marines and sailors can stop by the chapel annex to peruse through carefully organized, donated items for free.
“This place builds morale” said Staff Sgt. Chad Logan, the personnel chief with Headquarters and Support Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 8. “It shows that people at home care about our well being.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Hawthorne, the religious programs specialist with RCT-8, has worked tirelessly restocking the shelves of the small annex on a daily basis with donated items sent from nonprofit organizations and citizens in the United States.
“Hygiene gear is usually one of the big ticket items we stock up,” Hawthorne said.
Throughout the week, Hawthorne picks up the donated goods sent by mail and fills the shelves with soap, shower-shoes, candy, and razors.
“Marines always need razors so they tell me to look out for them in packages,” Hawthorne said.
Hawthorne understands the need of basic hygiene items and makes sure that Marine units that fall under the regiment’s command are constantly stocked with donations.
“I don’t keep everything here,” he said. “I’ll send it to battalion chaplains for other units.”
Spreading the wealth is an understood concept for Hawthorne, but he also corresponds with the unit contacts to make sure only usable items are sent to the battalions.
“I make sure the units have what they need,” he said. “I wouldn’t send them boxes of toothbrushes if they don’t need them or a bunch of feminine products if they are a grunt unit.”
Marines not only enjoy the free items, but because of their busy schedule, they aren’t always able to wait in the long lines at the local exchange.
“I like not having to overpay for hygiene items,” said Lance Cpl. Marcus McMurray, a command-operations-center journal clerk with RCT-8. “Plus I don’t have to wait in line and that’s very convenient.”
Marines and sailors within the regiment, units passing through the camp, and visitors to the camp have enjoyed the availability of the donated items and are thankful for the groups who mail the care packages.
“I wouldn’t be able to fill up these shelves if the organizations back home wouldn’t put their time, money and effort into this,” Hawthorne said.
For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit http://www.mnfwest.usmc.mil.