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.
November 26, 2004
Marine mom's mission: Gifts for troops in Iraq
By Alice Kenny
New Windsor - Working past midnight packing camouflage T-shirts and candy canes in snowman-decorated holiday bags, Luz Mercado worried that she might be wrapping a gift for a corpse.
The presents are for her 21-year-old son, Marine Sgt. Luis Mercado, and his many troops in Iraq. But 11 men under his command, men he called "my brothers" in his e-mail correspondence with the Times Herald-Record, died during the recent bloody battles in Fallujah. Snipers killed three of his Marines last week as they fought house to house to reclaim the inflamed city. Nine more of his men died in a car bomb ambush a few weeks earlier. Luz realizes that more Marines may die before the packages arrive.
"This is unbearable," said Luz, 43, choking back tears. "I'm trying to keep busy but my heart is breaking." Her son, who arrived in Iraq last August, had been scheduled to return to the states this month, in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. Instead, he was ordered to remain on combat duty until March.
"I feel bad that my son is not here for the holidays but I feel worse for parents whose children are not alive today," she said. The Department of Defense reported that as of Wednesday, 1,229 American troops have died since the war started in Iraq in March 2003.
"Thanksgiving is about appreciating what we have and why we have it," she added, her voice shaking. "We didn't get this freedom by ourselves; our Marines did it for us But we're eating, sleeping, can wash and bathe. What do they have?"
Determined to make some difference, Luz embarked on a one-woman campaign. She shops for supplies for the troops, buying Gatorade, power bars and chips by the gross. She turned the garage of her split-level home into a warehouse. And every week, she ships 40-pound boxes to the troops in Iraq. She had to send the holiday bags out before Thanksgiving to ensure they would arrive in time for Christmas.
Many have offered their support. Strangers have dropped off socks and toiletries - items the troops have worn out and cannot replace. "Support Our Heroes," the foundation she established to buy and ship supplies, has received nearly $4,000. Washingtonville Cub Scout Pack 316, as part of its Thanksgiving celebration, glued American flags to boxes, filling them with donated goods. The Middle Hope Fire Department, the Lions Club of New Windsor and even the Washingtonville High School class of 2004 are among the latest groups contributing money.
Still, Luz said, she wishes she could do more.
"Luis didn't sound right when he called me last night," his mother said. "He said he was just very tired. 'I'm going to get a four hour nap,' he told me, 'then I'm going back out there.'"
Ricardo Rios, Jr.