(Reprinted from NewsLeader.com, April 2, 2007)
STAUNTON ' The few, the proud, the super-soaked. Amid their tough mission in a hot, dusty desert, a few Marines serving in Iraq are close to getting some relief thanks to a concerned local Marine mom.
Kim Smith of Nelson County said her son, Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Bryant of Staunton, had asked for something to keep spirits lifted in his camp. Bryant is a 2005 graduate of Robert E. Lee High School who has spent the past two months on a tour of Iraq.
So Smith hatched a plan to provide the troops with guns ' water guns, to be exact ' along with an arsenal of water grenades.
"I told Chris he's America's Marine, but he's my son," Smith said. "They've got to have a release of some kind."
Smith shared her idea with co-workers at Wintergreen Real Estate Co. about two weeks ago. Within half an hour, the small office of about 15 people pooled more than $700 for the effort.
"It was just spontaneous," said company co-owner Kyle Lynn, who signed the first check. "Even the guys laying carpet at the office chipped in."
After a few other toy stores said they couldn't come up with the goods for a price Smith could afford, she called KB Toys in Colonial Mall-Staunton, where assistant manager Rebecca Wolfe helped her put together the unusual care package.
"I can relate, because I'm about the same age of her son," Wolfe said.
Smith shipped off 40 water guns and 10 packs of water balloons to Iraq last week. The shipment was big enough that the toy store could offer Smith a volume discount, Wolfe said.
But she's not done yet. After she posted her idea on her MySpace page, Smith said she began receiving water gun requests from Marines she didn't even know.
Always eager to help out the troops, Smith said she's now collecting donations for future shipments.
"(Christopher) says he's the most popular guy in his unit," Smith said. "I can't wait to send the next batch."