By Mike LaBella
---- — It sounds like a child’s wish list.
A squirt gun, licorice, Oreo cookies and other goodies.
But it’s actually a list of items desired by some of America’s toughest military personnel: Marines who are fighting terrorism thousands of miles from home.
For Marine Capt. Harold Eugene Lloyd III of Merrimac, snacks and toys that you can buy in almost any town in America were hard to come by while he was stationed in Afghanistan for seven months last year.
He sent a letter to his parents asking for snacks and personal care items. His father, a school bus driver in Haverhill, happened to mention it to school bus monitors, a mother-and-daughter team that he works with at Coppola Bus company in Bradford. Before long, the two women were shopping not only for Lloyd, but for other men in his unit as well.
“When I began my job as a bus monitor last January, Harold (bus driver Harold Lloyd) made me like family by talking about his children, including his son, who is a Marine, and how he was with other Marines who didn’t have anyone sending them stuff,” said Kimberly Giangregorio, 28, of Haverhill. “I asked if there were other Marines who might like the same thing, and my mother and I decided to start buying things to send overseas.”
Harold Lloyd gave Giangregorio and her mother, Kathy Shackley, a list of items his son and other Marines in his unit could not get at their base in Afghanistan.
“My mother and I went shopping for things like Oreo cookies, which was a big thing over there because they couldn’t get them,” Giangregorio said. “We shopped twice a month from spring until Christmas, buying things like 20 packages of Oreo cookies and huge packages of Twizzlers.
“The least we could do was to send them packages,’’ she said. “They put their lives on the line for us every day.’’
Capt. Lloyd was deployed to Afghanistan last February. Harold Lloyd then began sending his son packages of cookies, candy, nuts and other snacks, as well as personal care items such as hand cream, soap and shampoo.
“When they get a package, they all share it as some guys don’t get any, particularly some of the single guys,” Harold Lloyd said. “My son identified two Marines who he thought might enjoy getting packages of their own, and the women sent them packages, too.”
There was one item on his son’s list he didn’t expect to see: Squirt guns.
“My son told me they use them to play around with. It’s hot and it’s also a way to break the monotony,” Lloyd said. “I was joking with the ladies (Giangregorio and her mother) that he’d asked for them, and the next thing I knew they were buying squirt guns.”
Giangregorio said that for her and her mother, it was like shopping for a child.
“Who’d have imaged that toy water guns, cookies and licorice would make someone’s day,” Giangregorio said. “They sent us a card thanking us and telling us how much they appreciated what we’d sent. It made me feel amazing and it really touched my soul.”
Harold Lloyd said a young girl who rides his school bus asked if she and her mother, who works at a local dentist’s office, could send toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss to the Marines. In appreciation of the package the girl and her mother sent, Capt. Lloyd sent the girl a thank-you card that he and his fellow Marines signed.
“She showed it to me on the bus, then sealed it in clear tape to protect it,” Harold Lloyd said. “The girl carries it with her in her backpack every day and won’t let anyone touch it.’’
On Dec. 21, Capt. Lloyd returned home for Christmas and presented Giangregorio and her mother with an encased American flag that was flown in their honor on March 8 of last year at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan. An accompanying certificate included a note of thanks from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. The presentation took place at Coppola Bus company.
“He said the packages were very much welcomed and that it made them feel like they’d received a little piece of home,” Giangregorio said. “When you get a package from home, it makes you feel like you’re just across town, at least for a little while.”
Capt. Lloyd III graduated from Pentucket Regional High School in 1997 and from Norwich University in 2001, where he majored in criminal justice. He serves in the Marine Corps as a pilot of C-130 Hercules aircraft and is currently stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.