MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- It’s those simple conveniences of being able to walk to the store and purchase toothpaste and soap that everyone takes for granted. It’s those little necessities that make a world of difference to the men and women currently deployed.
"The Desert Mail Call Program was created approximately four years ago as part of Operation Enduring Families," said Heather Fiske, Single Marine Program coordinator. "The program primarily collects correspondence from individuals and organizations and mails those letters to Marines of our base who are currently deployed.
"It’s the neatest thing when a school or a Sunday school adopts a unit as a writing assignment," said Fiske. "They bring me the letters along with pictures to mail."
The program also receives donations from the community on base and off base, she said.
The program collects items such as phone cards, travel games, hygiene products, snacks, clothes and letter writing gear.
"Recently the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority contacted me asking if they could adopt the DMC program as their annual convention community service project," said Fiske.
"We wanted to do something for the military," said Connie Y. Brown, international president of the sorority. "If it wasn’t for the young men and women we wouldn’t be able to be here holding our annual convention."
There were eight Marines at the convention to accept donations. Three were from Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 and five were from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, said Fiske.
"This program touches every Marine that has been deployed from our base," said Fiske. "So many people are impacted by this program."
On the third Wednesday of every month volunteers meet at The Zone to pack the donations. The program on average mails about 30 to 50 boxes a month. The amount rises during October and November and into the holiday season mailing 87 to 141 boxes a month.
It is a reward when Marines write back, said Fiske. It shows Marines appreciation of the support from the community.
In a recent letter from Combat Logistics Battalion 7, Commanding Officer Lt. Col Drew T. Doolin wrote, "As we provide logistical support to all units in our area of operation in western Iraq, we are continually reminded of the love and support of patriotic Americans such as yourselves by your caring support with these gifts. Thank you!"
Doolin’s letter is one of several all along the same lines thanking donors and volunteers for their support, prayers and contributions. Many talk about the boost in morale of the Marines who receive letters and boxes.
As for the future of the program, "I see Desert Mail Call being a program in existence to support the Marines as long as they are being deployed," said Fiske.