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DARRELL HUCKABY: Help the Marines — and a child — this Christmas

As Christmas fast approaches children are inundated with television commercials showing all the shiny new toys that all the cool kids will be getting for Christmas. Television specials tout Santa Claus and the magic he performs on Christmas Eve. We used to have the Sears-Roebuck catalogue. Today’s kids have the airwaves, but other than that, little has changed.

Do you remember the excitement you felt when you went to bed on Christmas Eve as a child? Certainly you do. I would fall asleep each year with my nose pressed upon the cold glass on the window in the bedroom I shared with my sister as I peered into the night sky, hoping against hope to catch a glimpse of Santa and his reindeer, headed to our little mill village house.

I never saw him, but he never — not once — failed to come. Every Christmas morning I would find a new toy under our Charlie Brown style Christmas tree. Every one. On good years there might be two.

Yes, our Christmases were meager enough that a few fresh oranges and a tangerine and some hard candy were a big deal and something to get excited about, but they were never so meager that Santa Claus completely skipped us on his annual rounds dispersing gifts to good girls and boys.

I can’t imagine how I would feel if he had. Devastated, I suppose.

Believe it or not, there are children right here in our own community that may not get a visit from Santa this year. Having been extraordinarily blessed in my adult life I cannot imagine how much pain it must cause for a parent to watch Christmas approach, knowing that you cannot provide even the tiniest toy for each of the children in your household. As bad as it would have hurt to wake up Christmas morning, as a child, to no presents under the tree, it would hurt infinitely worse to be the parent who had to watch his or her child wake up to no toys on Christmas morning.

But fear not. As they have been since 10 November, 1775, the United States Marine Corps is on the job.

In 1947 a retired Marine Corps major, Bill Hendricks, collected 5,000 toys for needy kids in the Los Angeles area. The next year the USMC adopted his program and the United States Marine Corps Reserve has been in charge of the Toys for Tots program ever since — and turned it into a nationwide program. As always, the Marines had some big hitters on their side. Walt Disney designed the now familiar logo for the program and loaned Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to the program to serve as ambassadors through the years.

National spokespersons for the annual toy drive have included John Wayne, Bob Hope, Andy Griffith, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Ann Margaret, Sammy Davis Jr. and too many luminaries to mention.

Since 1947 the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program has provided millions of toys to millions of girls and boys all across the nation.

But guess what. Every year the demand increases and every year the Marine Corps Reserve finds itself having to work harder and harder and harder to meet the ever-growing demand. This year is no exception and, on behalf of the Marine Corps, I am taking it upon myself to ask you to help. I know you gave at the office and you gave at church and you have your own charities and your own people to buy for — and everybody and his brother — and sister — has his or her hand out at this time of year — and I know you are busy, but goodness gracious sakes alive, y’all! If you can’t help the Marine Corps, who can you help.

I can name a few instances they helped all of us out of a jam at places like Tripoli, Saipan, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Okinawa … too many to name, really.

Now they need our help and we don’t have to jump out of a Higgins boat or scale a cliff or establish a beachfront. All we have to do is go to a store, purchase a nice new toy that will make a child’s eyes light up at Christmas and convince them that all the talk of Love coming down at Christmas might hold some validity.

Please. Don’t just think to yourselves, “I’ll do that.” Actually do it. If not today, tomorrow. Don’t put it off. There are dozens of places you can take your toys locally, including Walmart. I know that in Conyers you can take your toys to the United Community Bank and visit with the friendliest group of people in the whole world. They even have their own Angel, in the first teller position. Tell her I sent you.

Really. Do it as a favor to me — or the Marines — or just to help make a child happy at Christmas. Do it for yourself. You’ll feel great afterward. Whatever the motive, just do it.

The Marines will appreciate it and I say again, who doesn’t owe a little something to the United States Marines? Merry Christmas, y’all.