MADELEINE BRAND, host:
For U.S. Marines serving in Afghanistan, it's not quite Christmas in July, but it's close. It's mail call. Here's one Marine opening a care package from home.
Unidentified Man: This one, I got Frito Lay chips, Smart Balance peanut butter, Nutella spread. Mmm. Gold Bond foot powder, that's gold. And baby wipes, cookies and beef jerky. All the essentials.
BRAND: Mmm, Nutella. Yes, all the essentials. Back here in the United States, family and friends do what they can to send their Marines what they need. We're covering the deployment of one military unit, the 2nd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment out of Camp LeJeune in North Carolina.
And that's where Catherine Welch of member station WHQR rummaged through boxes of goods headed for Afghanistan.
(Soundbite of grocery scanner)
CATHERINE WELCH: At a Piggly Wiggly grocery store near the base, customers have been donating household items to Marines in Afghanistan. Some of the items catch customers off guard.
Ms. ROSA HAMILTON: They were, like, clothespins, huh, I never would've thought about that. And we're, like, well, you know, they don't have anywhere to hang their clothes.
WELCH: In the storeroom in the back, assistant manager Rosa Hamilton goes through two huge boxes full of everything.
Ms. HAMILTON: Baby wipes and batteries and hand sanitizer.
WELCH: Barbara Breeden is the wife of Sergeant Major Robert Breeden, the battalion's senior enlisted man. She knew it was going to be rough over there.
Ms. BARBARA BREEDEN: Actually, I asked all the guys the night they left. I kind of wandered around and asked on what they thought they might need over there.
WELCH: So she organized this drive for the battalion. We've been following the Breedens both at home and in Afghanistan. This is their 11th deployment together, but it's different from the last few to Iraq, where Marines operated out of hotels or even Saddam Hussein's palaces.
Ms. BREEDEN: A lot of people think that Afghanistan is like Iraq right now, and it's not. They're two totally different things. Iraq is more set up with everything that the guys need, whereas Afghanistan, they went in with nothing.
WELCH: Breeden watches the supplies loaded into the back of her SUV. She'll take them home to sort them, box them and send them. When her husband told her that they are doing laundry inside boxes lined with trash bags, she sent vegetable scrubbers to scour shirts and pants. Then she shipped her husband a huge box filled with socks.
Ms. BREEDEN: He emailed me and said, oh, my feet love you.
WELCH: Feet are important. Sergeant Major Breeden wrote her about a pair of socks that got so hot, they transformed into a mystery substance that tore up his feet. He emails about other things, too, like this story Barbara told back at the Piggly Wiggly.
Ms. BREEDEN: They're out doing their trucking thing, looking for wabbits, as they call it, and up walks this calf out of nowhere. This little cow comes up, and he's rubbing on everybody and following them around and mooing at them like a dog. So they don't think nothing of it, and they go on their - they start to leave to go on their patrol, and they're on patrol, and all the guys look back and there's this calf. The calf is following them.
WELCH: So they named him Burger. And the Marines have either a mascot or a meal. Her husband has already joked that he'll eventually need a care package full of hamburger buns and ketchup.
For NPR News, I'm Catherine Welch.
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