Marines deliver cheer|
Posted 1/9/2013 Updated 1/9/2013
Commentary by Senior Airman Armando Aparicio Jr.
JBER Public Affairs
1/9/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The holidays are over and we just started the New Year. The Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program collected new unwrapped toys for less-fortunate children in the community between October to December.
The Alaska Toys for Tots campaign performed by Marines stationed at JBER is a bit different from how it is done in the Lower 48. The Marines in Company D, Anti-Terrorism Battalion, collect toys in a manner no different than any of the other Marines in the United States, but how they distribute these toys is a different story, because they perform remote deliveries.
There are small isolated villages in Alaska, which can only be reached by plane or snowmachine in the winter. The Marines split off into three teams of at least four individuals each, and start their deliveries in Kotzebue, Galena and McGrath.
Toys were packed into large sleds and then pulled by snowmachine. If a destination could not be reached by snow machine, the toys were then packed onto a pallet and dropped by air.
They rode miles across snow and ice. The rides were long and cold.
If you are not prepared and properly equipped, the environment can break you. It became frustrating when I couldn't start my snowmachine in sub-zero temperatures. Goggles would fog and frost up, making the rides challenging.
At one point when we were riding, there was nothing but ice and the wind was strong. The wind would push sleds off to the sides, behind us, and begin to spin the snowmachine out of control.
The weather can be pretty bad and I found myself in white-out conditions. You have to be careful and not lose sight of the person in front of you when traveling. You don't want to crash or get lost above the Arctic Circle. Trust me on that.
The Marines sort the toys by village and school grades. They have a sled packed for each village and within those sleds are bags of toys.
Each bag contains a different grade or age group. One of the Marines dressed up as Santa and handed a toy out to each child. The children approached Santa one by one and sat on his lap to take a photo.
Some of them were very shy, while others were very excited and impatient to see Santa. The toys were passed out at the schools and everyone there was very welcoming.
Seeing those kids with a smile and thanking us for coming out certainly made the trip worth it.
The Marines collected approximately 5,000 toys this year and said they will push for more the next. They do this every year and it is quite the experience for them as well as the children. Most of those children probably wouldn't have received any toys at all for the holidays.
The Marines here in Alaska always see that they do.