Since Veterans Day of 2007 the all-volunteer, non-profit Adoption Committee of Cerritos has provided year-round support for the soldiers of the Combat Engineering Battalion of the United States Marine Corps, stationed at Camp Pendleton, and their families.
Whether it has been the annual golf tournaments, the car washes, the bowling events, the monthly dinners for one Marine, the family picnics each summer or the Christmas parties during the holidays, the Friends of the 1st CEB of Cerritos does what it can to raise money and send letters and supplies for those who risk their lives everyday to preserve our freedom.
But for Dorothy Owen, current president and one of the original board members, her favorite day of the year is when The Friends of the 1st CEB of Cerritos come together to assemble care packages for the CEB, which has been deployed in Afghanistan since January.
On Wednesday, hundreds of volunteers will fill the care packages with personal care items and goodies, including 700 dozen freshly baked cookies donated by Polly’s Pies. The gift bags, sewn by local volunteers, will be filled and sent to the battalion members to show the community’s appreciation for their efforts.
“To me it’s the most important thing we do for the battalion because it reaches the largest number of them,” Owen said.
This will be the sixth time The Friends of the 1st CEB will be gathering to put together care packages. Previously they have sent three shipments of more than 200 packages, one of 550 and one of 900. Each year they’ve raised an estimated $10,000 to $15,000 to support the 1st CEB.
It all began in 2005 when Charles "Chuck" Sooter, the founding president and a Marine from the Vietnam War, approached the city of Cerritos when he heard that another city in Orange County and adopted a battalion. The city council debated the idea and finally approved the formation of the Adoption Committee of the 1st CEB in October 2007 to encourage strong ties between the Marine unit, residents and the city of Cerritos.
“We have a core of about 20 people who attend meetings regularly, but we have had tremendous support from the people here every year since then,” said Owen, whose second husband was a sergeant major in the Marines and retired for 15 years before passing away unexpectedly after only two years of marriage. “It’s incredible.”
Since The Friends of the 1st CEB was formed there have been eight CEB soldiers killed in action, the latest one coming last August 5. This time around the CEB has been deployed in smaller groups, so there is no headquarters. And even if they weren’t in Afghanistan, they likely would be somewhere in the world whether it be Australia, the Philippines, Africa or even Norway where the melting of the ice caps in the polar region is creating potential problems between countries.
“This battalion is one of the most decorated and deployed in the history of the Marine Corp,” Owen said proudly. “I once had a Marine tell me that he didn’t know so many people cared about him. But we all do. Anything we can do for them, we do.”
The assembly of the care packages when take place from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 12880 Moore Street, Cerritos. A 1st CEB banner will be displayed near the front of the building. Parking is available on both sides of the street. For information about volunteering or donating to this event, contact Dorothy Owen at (562) 926-1092.