December 15, 2016 --
Of all the holidays, Christmas is the time of year many children look forward to the most.
Stockings hung over the fireplace, Christmas lights illuminating the house at night and presents under the tree are all part of the magical feeling of Christmas.
Every child deserves to feel the magic of Christmas but not every child gets that opportunity.
As a child, I looked forward to experiencing Christmas morning, just like in the movies.
With the sound of Christmas music playing in the background, I dreamed of waking up early and running down the stairs to find my gifts underneath the Christmas tree and unwrapping them. That was my dream.
My mother was a single parent of four, who worked hard just to provide basic necessities for us.
I recall several times in my youth where I was not able to open a gift on Christmas morning because there just wasn’t enough money.
Each Christmas, those memories flood my mind and it’s a feeling I wish no child ever has to experience.
One memory that stands out the most was the Christmas before I joined the Marine Corps.
My recruiter realized my family was going through a financial hardship. That year, he brought several gifts for my family. If he had not, the Christmas magic would have been missing.
Later, I found out that the gifts came from the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.
I learned the mission of Toys for Tots is to collect new, unwrapped toys from October through December each year and distribute them as Christmas gifts to less-fortunate children. That year, the less-fortunate child was me.
When Santa Claus and his elves need help distributing toys for Christmas, they call on the ones that can get the job done. The Marines working the Toys for Tots Program saved my Christmas. I am forever in their debt.
One thing I have learned throughout the years is that it is better to give than to receive.
They gave and I received that Christmas. Now it’s my turn to give.
Although I can’t repay the Marine who took care of my family, I can make sure that at least one child’s dream comes true… to experience the magic on Christmas morning.
For more information about the Toys for Tots Program, call Gunnery Sgt. Jimmie Smith at 229-639-8787 or 229-733-1184.