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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

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Retired service members support Toys for Tots Program

By Sgt. Vitaliy Rusavskiy | | December 9, 2009

The spirit of giving is often heightened during the holiday season, and members of the San Diego County Sergeants Major Association revealed their generous spirit during their 36th Annual Christmas and Toys for Tots event at the Camp Pendleton South Mesa Club, Dec. 5.

More than 70 members of the association and their guests attended the dinner and reminisced about old times and shared experiences of their time as active-duty service members.

“There is so much history here that I am just humbled to be in this room,” said Sgt. Maj. Ramona D. Cook, sergeant major, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, who attended the dinner as the guest speaker.

During her speech, Cook commemorated retired Sgt. Maj. Walter “Val” Valentine, president of the San Diego County SMA, for his dedication to the Marine Corps. He served more than 30 years on active duty and 30 additional years as a government employee on Camp Pendleton.

“I remember the first (SMA) Christmas dinner and Toys for Tots drive in 1973,” said Valentine. “We received about 75 toys that year. This year we received about 3,000 toys,” he said.

The Toys for Tots campaign in the San Diego region, which includes Camp Pendleton, gathers roughly 25,000 toys a year, said Valentine. Last year, the program donated 3 toys to each child in need.

According to the Toys for Tots Web site, the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is designed to collect toys from October to December each year and distribute them to children throughout the U.S., bringing the holiday spirit to those without the means to do it for themselves.

“This annual Toys for Tots event is truly an example of how the association continues to takes part in the spirit of giving,” said Cook.

For more information about donating, visit www.toysfortots.org.