View Full Version : Marines' moms: Nights get cool in Iraqi autumn

09-23-05, 06:34 AM
Marines' moms: Nights get cool in Iraqi autumn

Two northwest suburban mothers say their Marine sons experienced cold nights while serving in Iraq, and they are concerned about other U.S. troops still in the Persian Gulf region as cool weather approaches again.

In Iraq, a country the size of California, temperatures can rise to 130 degrees in the summer but drop to 30 degrees at night when the cold weather arrives around November. And while both mothers stress their love for the troops and the government of the United States, their stories spoke of freezing winter nights despite Marine officials' insistence that the troops were fully equipped to deal with the chill.

In November 2004, about a month after he arrived in Iraq, Marine Cpl. Anthony Buckel of Rolling Meadows asked his mother to send blankets immediately because the temperatures were dropping.

His mother, Mount Prospect resident Mary Brown -- business manager of River Trails School District 26 -- rallied the school district, which serves portions of Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights and Des Plaines. District 26 donated about 125 fleece blankets to be added to Brown's personal donation of 50 blankets for Buckel's entire troop.

Brown spent $900 on shipping costs, and she carried a few boxes of blankets each day to the Post Office.

She said Marines have written to thank her for sending the blankets with sentiments such as: "These fleece blankets are lifesavers. We do not have a lot of heat, and these blankets help with a comfortable, quality sleep.'"

Although her son has returned from Iraq, where he earned a Purple Heart after receiving a gunshot wound to his forearm and shrapnel wounds while patrolling an Iraqi highway, Brown said she hopes the soldiers who are still in Iraq will be well-equipped when the cold weather arrives around November.

Marines are supplied with cold weather and hot weather sleeping bags, which can be combined during the winter months to ensure the Marines stay warm even in temperatures that can reach 20 below zero, said Capt. Jeff Landis, public affairs officer for the Marine Corps Systems Command. In addition, Marines are equipped with poncho liners that can double as blankets, keeping body heat inside the sleeping bags, Landis said.

"It's certainly more than enough protection from the weather," said Landis, explaining that this was the first he heard about Marines being cold under their sleeping bags.

But Meredith Kelly, chairwoman of the Lyons-based Operation Stars and Stripes organization that volunteers to send care packages to the troops, said many Marines have requested blankets, mittens and ski caps.

"I think we live in the greatest country in the world, and I support our government 100 percent," Kelly said. "I just think they've had some bumps in the road they needed to correct, and I think they are on their way to doing that."

In the meantime, Kelly said, she will continue to send care packages to keep the troops warm, in addition to sending toiletries such as soap, shampoo and sunscreen.

Geralyn Hood, the mother of Lance Cpl. Patrick Hood, who returned from Iraq in February, said sending her son care packages with essential items was the norm when he served in Iraq.

The 21-year-old Prospect Heights man e-mailed his mother to ask for cold gear for the summer and heat gear for the winter. Hood offered to send her son a blanket, but he declined, preferring leggings.

"He went when it was boiling hot and then it turned to freezing cold," Hood said. "You can't just wait around for someone to provide it. You have to provide it yourself."

Hood, who also volunteers with Operation Stars and Stripes, said that while she and her son love the Marines and don't want to appear negative in any way, there needs to be warmer gear supplied by the government.

"I think the majority of the people think the government and our tax money supports the troops," she said. "It's the troops that support the troops -- the troops' families do."

Paul Rieckhoff of Operation Truth, a Washington-based advocacy group, spent one year in Iraq before returning and creating an organization designed to inform the public about equipment shortages.

"If this guy is calling home, there is a problem," Rieckhoff said. "It's inexcusable."

All Marines are supplied with sleeping bags to keep them warm, but Capt. Dan McSweeney, spokesman for the Marine Corps, said that if they are still cold, they are free to purchase additional equipment, including blankets.

"All the Marines are equipped with everything they are going to need to accomplish their mission," McSweeney said.

More information about donations for U.S. soldiers is available on Operation Stars and Stripes' Web site at www.operationstars.com.