When my son said, ‘Man, it’s cold here. Can you send me some of those thermal underwear things like (my friend back home) Beau has?’, I finally had a task I thought I could accomplish! At last, some relief from that feeling of powerlessness that set in after the deployment! Off I went to buy a set of thermals. How many care packages can you send with jerky, baby wipes, etc. and still not feel like you are contributing? We were now given a mission and there’s nothing mothers like better than a project to make the lives of their children more comfortable.
As it turns out, other mom’s were hearing from chilly Marine’s in Fallujah, too, and a plot was hatched to try to provide some enhanced level of comfort to our guys in one way that we thought we could. Kate Wildman became a major accomplice in this effort but we were inspired and validated by a lot of other moms and wives and girl friends. Thus, the ‘Keep our guys WARMER’ project was born.
Least you misunderstand; our Marine’s are issued thermals as part of their gear. The Marine Corps has not sent them off to frigid missions unprepared! There are, however, some new and improved, cutting-edge, light-weight, rapid-drying, moisture-wicking baselayer thermals available that will certainly enhance the comfort of our Marines on their current mission. Will they freeze to death without them? No. Will they provide some measure of comfort and warmth to them? We think yes.
Here’s a travelogue of how we got to this point. Kate Wildman contacted vendors and manufacturers of the high-tech thermals and found several receptive companies willing to provide items at a discount. Some even agreed to provide free shipping. While we had a range of options, it appears that a set of the new type thermals will cost us somewhere in the range of $42 / Marine. We estimated that there were about 100 Marines in the TOW Platoon in Iraq, so our goal was to raise $4,200.
Word of the project got out to friends and family and offers of donations began to appear. Because we wanted donations to be tax deductible for the donors, we searched for an established charitable organization with whom we could collaborate.
We found two; the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the Marine Corps League.
Both of these organizations have provided us with exceptional opportunities to meet our goals. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is one of the largest charitable organizations in Louisiana and offers us the opportunity to accept corporate matching gifts in addition to direct donations. The Marine Corps League Family Relief Fund has a strong record of service to the TOW Platoon and their participation also gives us the option of accepting tax-deductible donations.
I have been truly amazed and impressed at the swiftness with which some seemingly very formidable tasks have been accomplished. As an example, when we were faced with the possibility of losing a substantial matching corporate donation unless we could identify a qualifying charity to accept the funds, the establishment a fund for our benefit was expedited and accomplished through the efforts of persons totally unrelated to the TOW Platoon in time to meet the deadline. As another example, the Marine Corps League has offered to advance funds to us, which will allow us to immediately place the order for thermals while we continue our fund raising activities. The Marine Corps League ROCKS!!!
Because time is of the essence in that we want to get the thermals to our Marines SOON while the weather is cold (and before our guys come home!), we’ve been scrambling to figure out how many and what sizes or thermals we need to order. I’d have to say that this part of the project has been like trying to herd cats. Imagine…. 100 guys….100+ family members…. scattered over 2 continents and at least half a dozen states and dozens of cities and towns….who may or may not know their Marine’s size! We eventually did get sizes on all the Marines, thanks to SSgt Jude!
What about the money? It’s coming from a variety of sources. My 86-year-old neighbor called me over and gave $42 in support of thermals in honor of my son. Kate Wildman has worked on corporate matching donations. I’ve sent out dozens of emails to TOW family members who have inquired about helping, with instructions of where and how to donate. A number of TOW family members have contacted us with news that they are seeking support from local businesses and community organizations like Rotary and VFW. Some family members have solicited their own family and friends for support. Wes Gauthier has contacted businesses and organizations in the Lafayette area for various types of assistance. I do not know what the final ledger will show. I have no doubt that we will complete our mission. If we over-achieve, I envision the money will stay with the Marine Corps League Family Relief Fund and the U.S. Marine Support Fund whose missions are compatible with the goals of this project.
Please note that the money for these thermals is being donated -- there is no cost to the Marine.
This ‘project’ has been an education and an awakening. I’ve learned how important it is for people to feel as if they have done something tangible… something concrete….to show their support for our Marines. I include myself in that group. I’ve met lots of wonderful people online and by phone who have participated.
No good deed goes unpunished. Some Marines may not get the right fit. (It’s those danged cats that are so hard to herd!) Some Marines already have high tech thermals (my son, for one… I sent him some) and may not absolutely need them. That’s okay with me. They might need a change of clothes. Or the new thermals may end up with someone else in our military over there that will get the benefit from them, even if they are not in the TOW platoon. Our Ramadi contingent felt strongly that under their circumstances the thermals were not essential and requested that the money be spent on other things that might be more necessary.
We are poised to order and ship. I shall keep you updated on our progress. Thanks to each of you who have played a role in making this possible.
PROUD Mother of a US Marine
Another PROUD Mother of a US Marine