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Marine moms send gifts to Afghanistan to honor fallen Marine

A Marine unit in Afghanistan lost one of its own in October, and a Wisconsin woman lost her son.

Now some Christmas cheer is on the way to those Marines at Camp Leatherneck, in memory of Lance Cpl. Jeremiah Collins.

Rajenta Jacques, the mother of a local leatherneck, welcomed Shannon Collins into her family's east Vancouver home, where the two Marine moms were part of a weekend gift blitz.

Along with friends and family members, they turned 100 flat shipping boxes into cardboard Christmas stockings.

The shipment is going to members of Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force. They're stationed at Camp Leatherneck, the Marine Corps' largest base in Afghanistan.

Lance Cpl. Collins was a member of the unit when he was killed on Oct. 5; he was 19.

Jacques' son, Tobias Vincent, finished Marine boot camp a couple of months ago. He will go through more schooling before he is assigned to a permanent duty station, she said.

The two women hadn't met until this weekend, but they got acquainted on Facebook, Jacques said.

"She was a mentor when my son went through boot camp," Jacques (pronounced "Jakes") said.

"When my son graduated from boot camp, the next day Jeremiah was killed," Jacques said.

A few weeks ago, the conversation turned to the idea of a Christmas-gift campaign for Jeremiah Collins' unit. And that led to the idea of the Milwaukee woman flying to Vancouver for the weekend box-filling session.

It might not have been the most practical notion, Shannon Collins acknowledged Sunday afternoon as she added items to the gift boxes.

"I should be doing homework," Collins said. She's a criminal justice major at Concordia University Wisconsin, in Mequon.

"I can't send my son boxes this year, and I wanted to be here," Collins said. "I want my hands on it."

A lot of donors chipped in to provide the gifts, Jacques said. The gift inventory included jerky or pepperoni snacks; sunflower seeds; toothpaste and tooth brushes donated by Gentle Dental offices; shampoo and other hygiene items donated by hotels; hot-chocolate packets and instant coffee; candy; puzzle books and magazines; DVDs; and handmade Christmas cards.

"We've gotten a huge assortment of condiments — small jars of Tabasco sauce and jam; we got 150 decks of cards from a casino," Jacques said.

Sunday's production line in Vancouver was just half of the overall effort. A woman in California has been organizing a similar one. Between them, Jacques said, they will provide gifts for 197 Marines in Afghanistan.

As an illustration of today's military, "47 of the Marines are women," Jacques said.

The Sunday packing push had some urgency to it. By having the boxes ready for a Monday pickup, Jacques has been assured that the gifts will be there by Christmas.

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