- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007

A pile of letters lay on Susan Warren’s black couch, words of thanks from Marines and soldiers scattered throughout Iraq and Afghanistan who have received one of her carefully packed boxes filled with everything from chocolate pudding to clean socks.

“The support you have provided has made a small difference in every man’s life,” reads one letter, typewritten in September by Maj. S.M. Riordan of the I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Other letters, many handwritten, ask Miss Warren to call their wives and to keep in touch. Striding across her one-bedroom apartment in Rockville, past small towers of wheat crackers, cheese crackers, snack cakes, granola bars and stacks of donated magazines, she answers the phone.

“Angel,” she smiles, her back to the photographs of herself as a trophy-winning bodybuilder. “I am so glad you called …”

It is the young wife of a Marine who had written to her a few weeks earlier, and just one of the hundreds she now calls family.

Miss Warren’s care-package project started four years ago when her nephew, Sgt. Alex McBride, was deployed to Afghanistan. He served in Afghanistan twice and once in Iraq, before returning to celebrate his 24th birthday last month in North Carolina.

“It occurred to me that, what about all those guys who had no one? Who was sending them mail? So, that’s what started it, I asked my nephew if I sent him packages, would he distribute them,” she said.

Miss Warren, a lithe 59-year-old with red hair streaked across her head and dozens of silver bangles on her wrist, now ships 10 to 15 boxes every week, each one crammed with food, magazines and foot powder, bought with donations.

Every Tuesday, when she gets off work at her job at White Flint Mall, she runs home and starts stacking up the taped brown boxes she has packed during the week, then pushes the heavy cart through the hallways of her apartment building to the ground floor where friend Nancy Fishbein is waiting with her van to take the boxes to the post office.

“I try to make things that are different, like including chocolate pudding,” Miss Warren said.

One week, she shipped one box to the 2nd Tank Battalion in Iraq; five boxes for 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines; two boxes to 2nd Battalion, 10th Marines; and two more boxes to different Army and Marine battalions.

Pushing her boxes out of the main door with her black pants and large black leather jacket flying back in the wind, Miss Warren, who was raised Jewish, says she thinks her project has been part of a religious journey.

“I met a contractor online, a former Vietnam veteran, a Southern Baptist and a great believer in faith,” she said, adding that it had changed her life. Feb. 18 was her first time in church.

Miss Fishbein, who is deaf, scribbled down her reason why they have been doing this for four years for men and women they have never met: “They fight for us. At least we can help them.”

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