For the past three years, a group of Hilton Head Island residents have embodied the idea that once you're a Marine, you're always a Marine.
The Moss Creek Marines, a group of 33 retired Marines, Navy Corpsmen and the spouses of deceased Marines living in Moss Creek, have made it their mission to support fellow Leathernecks deployed to the front lines.
"We have the wherewithal and the time so we wanted to make sure our troops feel like we're behind them," said Fred Will, the group's commanding officer and a former Marine sergeant. "That idea, 'Once a Marine, Always a Marine,' pretty aptly applies to all of us."
Having served in Vietnam and Korea, conflicts that lacked widespread public support, Will said when the group was created, many of the Moss Creek Marines were determined to change the war-time experiences of today's Marines.
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"During World War II, people at home were very involved in the war effort but in Vietnam, there was zero public support for the war," Will said. "People now feel that they need to support the troops. We felt like we should do what we can for these young men and women for all they do for our country."
Will said several times a year, the group mails dozens of boxes to Marine units deployed to Afghanistan stuffed with everything from Xbox 360 video game consoles and more than 400 pairs of socks to beef jerky and ramen noodles. The group recently mailed nearly 100 boxes to the troops of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., now deployed to Afghanistan. They also plan to adopt another unit from the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif., later this year. To date, the Moss Creek Marines have adopted and shipped supplies to 18 Marine combat units.
Since it started, the group members have raised between $70,000 and $80,000 to support their efforts, money that comes primarily from an annual tennis and golf tournament held each fall. Last year's tournaments raised about $10,000, according to the group's Web site. This year's tournament will be held in mid-November.
In addition to the tournaments, Will said the group holds occasional fundraisers throughout the year to keep the charity going, including a March 13 fundraiser at Steamer Oyster and Steakhouse on Lady's Island.
"All we're trying to do is raise some money for the troops," Will said. "Every cent we collect goes to the troops."