Santa Claus, USMC


Once again this December, I plan to pull at least one four-hour shift, and hopefully more, sitting or standing behind a table at a big box store on a Saturday or Sunday smiling at people passing by, wishing them, “Merry Christmas,” and offering lollipops free to kids.

I do that because I want them to give new toys or donate some money. I won’t pressure them to give, I won’t use guilt, and the kids get the lollipops free whether their folks give or not.

But I don’t want them to give to me. Or even to the United States Marine Corps whose name is on the banner at the table where I will be. I want them to give to the kids in their own community. I want them to give to Toys for Tots.

In Coweta and Fayette counties, the Toys for Tots program is spearheaded by the members of the Sgt. Clyde Thomason, MOH, Detachment, #1325. The “MOH” stand for Medal of Honor, which was awarded to Sgt. Thomason, an Atlanta native, who was the first enlisted Marine to receive the MOH in World War II. He was killed on Makin Atoll in the Pacific. His remains were not discovered until 1999 and, after some 50 years, he finally came home. He now rests in Arlington National Cemetery.

There are about 70 Marine veterans who belong to the detachment named after Sgt. Thomason. I am one of them and am proud to be a charter member of this unit. The Marines in 1325 do a lot for the community.

One of our fellows, Hank Berkowitz, who was our Marine of the Year two years ago, was Coweta County’s Veteran of the Year in 2013. Not surprisingly, he is heavily invested in Toys for Tots. Of all the activities of the Marine Corps League, Toys for Tots tops the list.

The goal is simple: to collect money and toys and distribute them to needy kids locally who otherwise might not have much of a Christmas, if they have one at all.

The veterans of MCL 1325 don’t do all the work alone and are assisted by many individuals, businesses, and organizations. But most of the members will pull a shift or two, regardless of the weather or the temperature. They have been through far worse.

Some of the Marine veterans, and Navy corpsmen who served with Marines, are retired and others work a job, but they still donate their time and energy because they believe the children of Fayette and Coweta counties need and deserve a Christmas.

These local Marines (no such thing as an ex- or former Marine) have distributed toys to over 8,000 local kids. Eight thousand children. This year Heard County has been added to the list.

Some of the Marines in 1325 served in the Pacific during the very worst days of World War II. Some are veterans of the war in Korea. Quite a number are veterans of the Vietnam War, and others served in hostile places during the more recent wars in the desert. Some are cold war warriors.

They don’t talk about it — ever — these Marines, but among those collecting toys and funds were those wounded in combat. Others were cited for bravery or heroism. Some gave 20 or more years of their life to keep the nation free. But they don’t want to talk about that — they simply want to give a bunch of children a good, a happy, and a memorable Christmas.

So, in the next few weekends, know that, at various places around the area, Marines are looking for a few good men and women to give a few new toys or a few dollars so that more than a few children will smile on Christmas morning.

Sometimes Santa Claus comes in the likeness of U.S. Marines.

The Marines were there when their help was needed. Now they are counting on you to help them help the children. Be generous, God bless, and Semper Fi.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA ( He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee ( and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at]