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Syracuse Marine Parents make neck coolers for troops overseas

Tracy Doss, a member of the Syracuse Marine Parents, works on a neck cooler during a work bee Saturday, March 31. The coolers will be put into care packages for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tracy Doss, a member of the Syracuse Marine Parents, works on a neck cooler during a work bee Saturday, March 31. The coolers will be put into care packages for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo by Sarah Hall.

— “We start with the pledge, then we have a time of remembrance. It’s a potluck dinner and everybody brings something to share,” Nemitz said. “We have just kind of a general information meeting because we have a lot of things coming up in terms of fundraising and stuff. And people just kind of talk about what’s going on with their son or daughter. It doesn’t matter what’s going on — if your son just left for boot camp or if he’s headed off to Afghanistan or if he’s been out for two years and is struggling. Everybody, we really have bonded. We know each other’s kids by name and where they are.”

Nemitz, whose son is now stationed at Quantico, Va., said an average of 30 people regularly attend the meetings.

“The faces change, but we seem to stay in that 25 to 30 to 35 range that are here on a monthly basis,” she said. “With that group, there is an intimacy in sharing. We’ve bonded, probably for life, most of us. The Marine Corps is big on family, and we’ve just kind of joined right in.”

That support system has been key to families in times of crisis, like the Schneider family of Baldwinsville, which lost son Kyle to an IED in Afghanistan last July. Kyle’s parents, Lori and Rick, joined Syracuse Marine Parents when Kyle left for boot camp.

“That was tough. It’s always been tough when we lost someone from the Rome area, so that was just a sucker punch to the stomach,” Nemitz said. “I’ll never forget the message on my voice mail from Rick saying, ‘Please call me,’ and I just knew right away. That was a tough time.”

But the group came through to provide support for the family.

“This is an incredible group of people,” Nemitz said. “Tina, Nancy and I went to their home and spent some time with them. Tina was and still is an incredible support to Lori, because she lives very close to her. It was certainly a bonding time for the group. Everybody just as a family would support their family during a loss, we supported each other. Everybody was really incredible. And Rick and Lori have been back — not regularly, but they have been back.”

Nemitz said sacrifices like Kyle Schneider’s, as well as the day-to-day sacrifices made by the sons and daughters of other members of the group and Marines from all over the country, serve as a reminder of how real these battles the nation is fighting are.

“We owe these kids so much,” she said. “It’s humbling to think what our sons and daughters have done. My father did it, but it wasn’t as personal. I wasn’t a part of that. When it’s your own flesh and blood and you’re witnessing it, that’s when it becomes real.”

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