FUTENMA MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, Okinawa — Marines hosting an annual Christmas party for Okinawan foster children added a $1,000 gift this year from donations collected in the United States and Africa.

The money came from middle school students, Lockheed Martin employees from Syracuse, N.Y., and Lockheed Martin contractors working in Cairo, Egypt.

Robert Stelmack, a radar system program manager at Lockheed’s Syracuse plant, spearheaded the contributions. He said he originally wanted to do something special for Marines from Futenma’s Marine Air Control Group 18, forward-deployed to Uzbekistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

“We are very proud of the sacrifices the servicemen and women make every day for our nation,” Stelmack said. “We know that when a unit is deployed … their families suffer.”

Stelmack said he asked a colleague deployed with a MACG 18 radar unit what could be done to show support and help the Marines during their deployment.

Stelmack said he learned unit members do much charitable work in communities where they’re based. “We wanted to find a way to fill the void left by their departure,” he said.

The deployed Marines mentioned the annual Christmas party they give for the children’s home. Lockheed employees collected $650; children from West Genesee Middle School, attended by Stelmack’s 12-year-old daughter, Courtney, contributed $350.

The money will go toward repairs and a scholarship fund, said Isao Morita, Shimazoe No Oka children’s home director.

“We are so grateful for the good will and support from the military community,” Morita said.

MACG 18 Marines visit the home quarterly to weed, paint and make repairs, said Lt. Mike Carlson, the unit’s adjutant.

They have hosted the Christmas party every year since 1998, inviting the children to Futenma for a full day of festive activities, food and fun.

This year’s monetary donation was just “gravy over the top of everything else,” Carlson said.

When the children saw Santa ride up on a huge fire truck, said Chieko Teruya, a case worker at the foster home, their eyes lit up; they couldn’t wait to get presents from him.

But the children always are excited to be around Americans, Carlson said. For most of them, he said, the annual Christmas event is a highlight of the year.

This year appeared to be no exception, he said: “All 60 kids had somebody who was their dad for the day. We didn’t see a single frown.”

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