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Her Corps mission

Care packages are being assembled for members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, which includes Woodbury resident Joshua Hanson, shown here with his father Glen and brothers Jordan and Jacob. The unit is stationed in Afghanistan. Submitted photo

Joshua Hanson doesn't have a pillow to sleep on.

When he and the other members of his Marine Corps unit bed down at night in Afghanistan, they improvise by stuffing loose clothes in a pillowcase.

They don't complain.

But Hanson's mother, Woodbury resident Luli Flores-Hanson, knows the members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines could be sleeping more comfortably. In an effort to make the soldiers' lives a little less primitive, she has organized a locally based care-package drive.

Her aim is to give her son, a Marine Corps lance corporal, and his comrades some basics that they regularly go without: baby wipes to keep clean, warm socks, foot warmers and toothpaste. To name just a few.

And some pillows.

"It is very, very meaningful to get those boxes," Flores-Hanson said of the care packages she is assembling. "It says, 'I'm a person who people care enough to send something to me."

Marines are a proud bunch, Flores-Hanson said, and the members of her son's unit are no different. When she asks Joshua if he needs anything, he always tells her he's fine.

"They try not to be a bother," she said. "That's part of the Marine culture: 'We're making it, we're going to complete the mission.'"

But when they get care packages, she explained, there are no complaints. The soldiers open the packages with gratitude, then make sure they share the treasures with one another.

In a war zone where shower facilities and other modern conveniences are strictly luxuries, the soldiers can't wait to dig in, Flores-Hanson said.

"Opening a package, I have heard, is like Christmas," she said.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Scott Cole understands.

"Everyone looks forward to it," he said of care-package deliveries.

A Woodbury resident who works at the local Marines recruiting office, Cole said he remembers receiving care packages while he served in Afghanistan.

It's appreciated, he said, "that some random person was willing to take the time."

Flores-Hanson understands the concept of appreciation. She hails from a country that has no formal military.

After living in the United States for more than 23 years, the Costa Rica native said she has developed a deep respect for the protection that America's armed forces provide.

She said her care-package effort, called Operation Warming Hearts and Hands in Afghanistan, is her way of giving back.

"I have so much value and so much respect now for the word 'freedom,'" she said.

The care-package effort is under way and runs through the month of December.

Flores-Hanson's goal is to ship off a box to every member of her son's unit - more than 100 troops.

She said there are more items left to collect, however. Flores-Hanson said she is seeking businesses willing to facilitate a drop-off box for donations, as well as volunteers to help pack and prepare the packages.

In addition, she is hoping to secure a facility as a staging area to prepare packages, and mail a video of the event.

She said she is also collecting donations for the effort, noting that each care package costs about $13 to mail, while boxes with pillows cost about $15.

Donations welcome

Anyone interested in contributing to the effort can reach Flores-Hanson at

Her efforts aren't the only in Woodbury looking to keep Marines warm this winter.

After reading a Pioneer Press column about Joshua Hanson and his unit, Woodbury-based Pack & Mail came up with what they're calling a "Socks for Soldiers" campaign.

The store, located at 7060 Valley Creek Plaza Suite 115, is collecting socks to send to the Marine unit.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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