SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Mary Lou Webb of Springfield is the creator of Operation Santa, and makes sure that Marines overseas get special packages from home.
She was recently greeted by six Marines at her home to help with her mission. They picked up 48 boxes full of all kinds of goodies and thoughts from home. They're going to an entire battalion of 800 Marines serving in Afghanistan.
"We stuff them with cards, candy, beef jerky, cocoa -- candy canes are a must-have," she says.
This is a mission the comes from the heart. Businesses, churches, and students all help bring a little touch of Christmas to the project. The boxes contain cards of appreciation from thousands of children.
For the Marines, the boxes contain more than treats; they boost morale.
"It gives you a sense of pride because the people care back home, plus when you open up the packages you get a little bit of taste of home," says Gunnery Sergeant Joey Davis with the Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines. "It's not like you have Walmarts or Targets over there, but when you open these packages you see things from home and it let you know that people care."
And Webb care. She started Operation Santa in 2005 when her son was deployed to Iraq at Christmas. She heard a lot of Marines weren't getting anything mailed to them, so she changed that.
"When they are on their way, it's kind of like, 'Wow we did it again,'" says Webb. "My husband was a Marine in Vietnam and between him and my son and all the wonderful things I see these Marines do, it's the least I can do for everything they do for our freedoms and to protect us. The least I can do is gather a few items and stuff those stockings."
The Marines help Webb bring the 40+ pound boxes to the post office, ready to be shipped off. Within 2-3 weeks, the boxes will be handed out to the battalion, just in time for Christmas.
"During the holiday season, when things kind of get a little down and again this is what keeps us motivated," says Staff Sergeant Jose Soto, also with the Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines.
Webb puts a special touch on each box, looking out for each Marine.
"That way, when they get there, they will know how many more are coming and they can go 'Woo Woo!' That's nice."
"I have a lot of people that help me and get those shipped off to our marines that are so deserving," adds Webb. "If we can do something to put a smile on their face, that's what it's all about."
The Marines that help Webb do so every year, that is, if they have not been deployed. While they were overseas, they also received her Operation Santa packages.
By the way, the cost to ship all 48 boxes we
mentioned earlier was $1,700. Donations paid for it.
More information: http://www.marinecorpsfamilyfoundation.org