Marines get Army assist in Toys for Tots campaign
Sometimes it’s not the size of the package that matters, but what’s inside.
Certainly, that would apply to the 10 soldiers who comprise the Combat Equipment Battalion-Luxembourg, especially during the holidays.
For the seventh year running, this small detachment — the only U.S. military unit based in Luxembourg — is lending its support to one mighty big program, the annual Toys for Tots campaign.
“It brings joy to the kids,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kimberly Thompson, one of this year’s organizers. “You can just see their expression. You don’t have to understand their language. Playing is a universal language for all kids.”
The campaign, started by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and now in its 56th year, unites needy children with precious toys. Last year, the U.S. nationwide campaign, which has been extended to dozens of countries where Marines serve, collected nearly 13 million toys for 5.7 million children.
Marines “do what they can to support the kids,” said Master Sgt. Phil Mehringer, a Marine spokesman in Europe. “You have a lot of different communities that work together.”
Efforts in the Europe and Pacific theaters are unofficially supported by the nonprofit organization that oversees the U.S. program. For the most part, said Brian A. Murray, a member of the foundation, Marines stationed abroad are largely left up to their own devices to start or sustain a toy drive.
What makes the effort in Luxembourg so unique is that Army soldiers run the program on behalf of the Marines. The other principal sponsors are the American Chamber of Commerce, the American Women’s Club of Luxembourg and Allied Arthur Pierre, a commercial company.
In 1997, when the Marine embassy guards in Luxembourg City could no longer stay with the program, it was the Army equipment battalion that stepped in to fill the void, Thompson said.
The Luxembourg campaign provides toys and other gifts to orphans. Last year, more than 600 items were donated. In early December, soldiers travel throughout the duchy delivering toys to orphanages before the Saint Nicholas holiday.
“These guys are like the elves, only they are in BDUs (battle dress uniforms),” said Chuck Fick, an Army spokesman for Combat Equipment Group-Europe. “We’re not actually playing Santa.”
Hundreds of orphans in Luxembourg may beg to differ.