BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The United States Marines received an order 62 years ago and they look forward to carrying it out each and every Christmas. Last year alone they collected an astonishing 142 million "Toys for Tots."
For all they do for our nation and the children of our community every holiday season, we honor members of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves as South Mississippi Heroes.
After watching the 9/11 terrorist attacks unfold on TV, many great patriots like Staff Sergeant Henry Butts called that very day to enlist. He wanted to be a United States Marine.
"Because the Marine Corps is the toughest, that's why I wanted to join," Butts said.
Since 1775, from the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, the Marines have been sent to every corner of the Earth to fight our country's battles. They're always the first on the front lines ready to face danger in the eye.
"That's what we do. That's what we train for. We train to always be ready, 24-7, no matter where our president wants us to go, we're gonna go. And that's what Marines do, we follow orders," Butts said.
Perhaps their favorite order to follow is a permanent one that was handed down in 1947 to collect Toys for Tots in their communities.
"The commandant at that time saw how well the program helped the communities and mandated that all Marine Corps Reserve units would conduct such programs."
Right now there are 700 Marine Corps Toys for Tots programs across America. Last year alone, they collected and delivered an astounding 147 million toys.
"That's the community giving. Without the community involvement, this program, it couldn't work."
It takes many volunteered hours of running around, coordination and miles on the road to get the toys to their final destination, into many tiny, grateful hands.
"After you see that needy child get that toy, it makes everything worthwhile. That's the pay day, yes. That's why I do this, that's why all the Marines do this, is for the children."
Their unexpectedly large toy pickup from the WLOX News studios this year made the brave warriors smile. Their vehicle wasn't big enough to haul all the generous gifts away from just one stop.
"Yep, that's a lot of toys. We picked up a lot of toys, more than what we expected."
The United States Marines, no matter where they are in the world, are true American heroes every day of the year.
"Yes we're strict, we're disciplined, we're hard core. But at the same time, we have a heart and we also care for our communities and our needy children."