NFA, Class of 2001.
MARINE GYSGT LUIS A. MERCADO JR.
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W e l c o m e
Posted May. 22, 2017
New Windsor mom, Luz Mercado, started the foundation, ÒSupport Our Heroes, when her son Marine GYSGT Luis Mercado Jr. was stationed in Iraq and started to share items from packages his mom sent him to fellow soldiers who told him of some of the simple pleasures they were missing from home.
Lucy Mercado, New Windsor, is preparing to ship items to military service members as part of her foundation, Support Our Heroes. She supports three platoons in Afghanistan.
December 08, 2004
If There Were a Marine Medal for Shopping, She'd Get It
By Peter Applebome
New York Times
New Windsor, N.Y.
FIRST came the Red Bull, three cases, she thinks. Maybe four.
It was 140 degrees in Iraq, her son, Marine Sgt. Luis Mercado Jr., had told her shortly after he arrived there in August, and the many marines under his command needed something more than water to keep them going through the long, hard, hot days.
So his mother, Luz, a guided missile of maternal resolve, ran off to Sam's Club in Middletown, bought the Red Bull energy drinks and sent them off.
But, of course, the next day would be just as hot, she thought. So a few days later, she sent off more Red Bull and some energy bars. And then, once she started there was no reason to stop. Before long she was comparing prices at Sam's and the B J's in Monroe and the Wal-Mart in Newburgh and sending off the Red Bull and the energy bars and Gatorade, cookies, deodorant, shaving cream, razors and potato chips, enough each time for many, or as close to it as she could.
When it got too expensive, the Mercados distributed fliers in September in their Orange County neighborhood for donations. Then an article in a local newspaper helped even more and there were donations from all over - the Middle Hope Fire Department Women's Auxiliary, Cub Scout Troop 316 in Washingtonville, Fig's Auto Driving School in Washingtonville, the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club. The Nevins family from Campbell Hall came up with $1,000. A kid who wanted to be a marine sent $5. Soon it was a tax-exempt organization, "Support Our Heroes," with a Web site (supportourheroes.net).
With Christmas coming and the platoon fighting in Fallujah, the regular mass mailing every few days didn't seem like enough. So Mrs. Mercado, 43, went out and put together Christmas gift packages for many with green military T-shirts, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, candy canes and candy, each neatly packed in its snowman holiday bag. They've been sent, but the red garage is still full of cartons and jumbo boxes of Slim Jims and Ritz crackers and Colgate toothpaste and Tampax, the next shipment.
From the outside it's just another military family's house with yellow ribbons on the cars, the red maple out front and a great big ribbon on the front door. But if any family was going to send a platoon's worth of goodies to Iraq every other day, it figured to be the Mercados. Luis was so convinced he wanted to be a marine, he tried to enlist at 13. He lived for R.O.T.C. in high school, then turned down an Air Force scholarship to enlist Aug. 26, 2001. Eventually, he was assigned to the presidential security detail, but he requested to be sent to Iraq instead. He has already re-enlisted and plans to be a drill instructor at Parris Island.
Surely, there's a limit to how much can be sent and for how long. More than ever, war is hell, and all 140,000 troops in Iraq can't expect daily Red Bulls and Famous Amos cookies. But, then, Mrs. Mercado figures, why can't they? After all, this is a war where the warriors get yellow ribbons on the back of S.U.V.'s, and the rest of us get tax cuts and urgings to shop a lot. And with e-mail and cable TV, home seems just a mouse click away. Why not some of the small pleasures of home, too?
HER many packages are already too many - 11 members of his platoon have already come home in body bags - 8 in one gruesome day around Halloween. She shudders to think how many more will follow. Sergeant Mercado, 21, believes in his mission there. "He says, 'Ma, would you want me to come home now and the enemy follows or wait until March when things will be a lot better?' " she said. "They feel they're making a difference there."
But Mr. Mercado, 43, says he still doesn't know why his son is there, "I heard about the weapons of mass destruction, which I'm still waiting for," he said.
And Mrs. Mercado burns at a slow boil. "I really feel if the Iraqis want to kill themselves, why should we lose our people with them? But then President Bush doesn't have sons; he has daughters." Reminded that some daughters went, she said: "Well, his didn't."
But with no end in sight, the politics matters less to her than helping her son, helping his platoon, welcoming him home in March. Perhaps when they come home, some will thank her, but for now, she said, she's perfectly content not to know too much about them, not to have too many names to know in the war zone.
After all, one son is enough, especially when, out of the blue the other day, he confessed a sudden desire for a family, wife and kids.
"PLEASE STAY SAFE," she e-mailed him the other day. "WE WANT YOU BACK SAFELY. LOVING YOU ALWAYS. MAMA. SEND ME A KISS."
"Muaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh," he replied. "Love you."
Ricardo Rios, Jr.