A nation at war

Shoeboxes of Hope


When Cidney DeFilippo of Bayonne was talking to her friend, Nancy Walsh of Basking Ridge, Walsh said that she was preparing to send things to the troops in Iraq, including her relative, Lance Corporal Patrick J. Walsh of Bayonne.

DeFilippo thought, “I can do that.”

“I asked if I could do a couple, but I didn’t realize what we had to do,” DeFilippo said. “I thought we could send a big package, but as it is, everything has to fit in a shoe box.”

Walsh had managed to collect hundreds of packages through St. James Church, so she took DeFilippo’s offer.

“We were well on our way when Cidney came along and offered to help,” she said. “The soldiers could always use a little more.”

Young Patrick is the son of Debbie and Patrick Walsh of Bayonne. “Patty” attended Woodrow Wilson Elementary School and briefly studied at Bayonne High School before going onto Hudson Catholic High School.

A Boy Scout with Troop 19 of Mount Carmel Church, Patty enlisted in the Marines while still in high school, and entered service ironically on Sept. 11, 2001.

He trained on Parris Island in South Carolina and later went for more intensive training in Camp Geiger, before being deployed aboard the U.S.S. Iwo Jima from February to October, 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

When he returned home from his first deployment, he was told that he would be deployed again for the next phase sometime in February, 2004, and eventually was attached to the First Marine Expeditionary Force. That force is currently operating in the hotly contested region of Fullujah, where the unit conducts raids, house-to-house searches, and patrols.

Patrick’s father, who works at the international postal facility on the Jersey City/Secaucus border, called his son a good kid.

For Cidney DeFilippo, who is involved in several local church and civic organizations, the idea of sending small but extremely necessary items to 20-year-old Patrick and his buddies was not only appealing and patriotic, but a way to show the troops there that people back home cared.

Young Patrick, who is frequently in contact with his father in Bayonne via instant messaging on the Internet, said the Marines in his unit needed to make life bearable in that foreign world of sand, sudden windstorms and blistering heat.

Small items like hard candy or Irish Spring soap, laundry power, and even shampoo are often hard to come by unless someone from home cares enough to spend the massive postage needed to ship even a small package. A shoebox of items costs $27.

Some other items that young Patrick requested include things most Americans can readily find at any local convenience: razors, Visine, hand lotion, Chapstick, throat lounges, batteries, pretzels, potato chips, and magazines.

After helping Ann in Basking Ridge put together a few boxes of requested items, DeFilippo decided to help put together a network here in Bayonne as well as in Basking Ridge that would get enough of these packages to help all the 600 or more Marines at the heart of the Iraqi conflict.

“We’ve set a goal of 650 packages,” DeFilippo said, referring to Walsh’s effort in Basking Ridge. DeFilippo had about 40 in her own home and hoped to get more.


Bayonne effort


Patrick’s father in Bayonne and others joined the effort – since e-mail, letters, and packages were ways of keeping in touch with people at home. Some Marines don’t get many packages because of the postage costs.

Coincidentally, the elder Patrick works in the APO division of the Postal Facility, which deals with military mail, but could not arrange to get the boxes shipped at a special rate. The Bayonne Capodice family and their civic organizations will be paying shipping costs for the boxes once they are assembled.

“This is a way to help support the troops while they are overseas,” DeFilippo said, noting that she is suggesting to other organizations that she belongs to that they get involved.


To help out


There are three ways people can help out.

“They can give money to shopping for the items,” DeFilippo said, “or they can prepare the boxes on their own. Or they can bring the things to us so we put them together.”

As of the end of April, DeFilippo said they had about 288 boxes done in both Basking Ridge and Bayonne, for eventual shipment through the post office’s APO program.

Because you are not normally allowed to include aerosol cans in these shipments, they had to get special permission to include WD-40, a silicone lubricant that has a remarkable number of uses from helping to keep weapons lubricated to drying moist wires. Where they are, sand often gets into their devices.

DeFilippo also made several boxes specifically for women, who serve as drivers and other positions off the front lines.

In seeking out the materials young Patrick requested, DeFilippo had the hardest time finding small packages of laundry detergent to fit into the shoebox.

“I thought about going to a coin-operated Laundromat to ask if I could purchase some from the companies that supply the machines,” she said.

But then she found small bags in one of the local dollar stores.

Young Patrick had requested energy bars, but because of the heat, these boxes cannot include any chocolate. “I could not find any energy bars without chocolate, so I put in granola bars instead,” she said.

The idea is to provide small, light items that soldiers can carry with them, along with the 50 to 80 pounds of gear they have to carry, the elder Patrick said.

The shoe boxes won’t just go to Patrick. The elder Patrick said he knows two others in the unit and others from other platoons, and is seeking other people to help with the chore of distributing the boxes once they get to Iraq.

The Elder Patrick also a friendly rivalry with one of the other Marines from his son’s unit, a Massachusetts native named Jason Wheeler who is an avid Boston Red Sox baseball fan.

“I’m writing ‘Go Yankees’ on his box,” Patrick said.

Along with the list of requested items, the shoeboxes will also include letters from school kids and local Scouts.

“We want them to know we all care about them over there,” DeFilippo said.

The elder Patrick, of course, is concerned with the nearly daily news of soldiers being slain in Iraq.

“I’m more nervous than my son is,” he said. “My son keeps telling me not to worry. By getting these boxes together, it is a way I can focus.”


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