MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The gratitude of the American public has been one of the subtle differences between the present day conflict and the wars of years past; Marines and other servicemembers are far more likely to receive the thanks of the public, a smile and handshake, than to be ignored or shunned, as it was in the wars and conflicts of our fathers.
Some people go the extra mile to make that thanks known, though. Kierra Watts, a 9th grader at Craven Early College, decided on her own initiative to put together a drive in her school for students to contribute necessities for the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, currently in the process of deploying aboard the warships of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group.
“I wanted to help. That’s all, really,” said Watts. Daughter of a local caterer, Jennifer Robinson, who was involved in hosting the 26th MEU birthday ball on Nov. 19, 2012, Watts said she simply wanted to do something, anything, to help. She cited lots of family members in the military as her reason for doing the goods drive. “A lot of my family was in the military,” she said.
In the earlier years of the war, these campaigns to get necessities like deodorant, shower products, toothbrushes, and the like, to the troops were more common. But as the conflict dragged on, the frequency of such events has waned, as more people lapse into apathy where deployed servicemembers are concerned. Watts, while originally considering writing letters to troops overseas, quickly transitioned to something larger.
“I made a list of items, brainstormed how to get them. I talked to my mom, went to the counselers. They said to make fliers,” said Watts. After making fliers and the like, she left collection boxes in the homerooms of her school. Students, while initially taking slowly to the idea, eventually turned it into a competition, to see who’s homeroom could donate the most.
“I didn’t expect this to be a such a big success,” said Watts. Eventually, the drive got to the point where she had to enlist help to carry all the goods out.
Not content to rest on her laurels, Watts has big plans for the future, both for her fundraising and for her education. She intends to do another fundraiser, this time on a larger scale. “This time, I might try to get the community involved,” she said. She says to seeks to gain admission to Vanderbilt University upon graduation from high school, for the purpose of studying law.
Either way, she’s just getting started. Coming up with a plan, carrying it out, and conveying the fruits of her labors to the grateful Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Watts is clearly a young woman with a bright future.