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Vernal group adopts Marine platoon in Afghanistan

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 29 2011 5:34 p.m. MST

Marine Sgt. Daniel Gurr, left, is shown during a training exercise in a photograph provided by his family. Gurr, 21, of Vernal, was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 5, 2011.

Gurr family

VERNAL — It was difficult to hear anything above the happy chatter inside Paint Your Heart Out.

The tiny paint-it-yourself ceramics shop just off U.S. 40 in Vernal was packed Monday with adults and kids, all happily doing their best impersonations of Santa's elves.

"Is there a stocking in that one?" one voice called.

"What about a letter?" another asked.

The organized chaos was the result of the community's response to one Marine's simple request.

"When he got to Afghanistan, he said, 'Mom, when you send me a package, will you send one for my buddy, for a couple of my buddies, because they don't get many packages,'" said Kris Weaver.

Weaver's son, Lance Cpl. Logan Weaver, is deployed to Afghanistan's Helmand Province with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines. She mentioned her son's request to a few of her friends, including Stephanie Stensgard, who agreed to help.

The initial plan was to find people to adopt 31 Marines in Logan Weaver's platoon and have them send care packages to those Marines for the remainder of the unit's deployment.

But when Stensgard's husband, Uintah High School wrestling coach Gregg Stensgard, used his weekly radio show to promote the idea, things took off.

"Within 36 hours we had all of the (Marines) adopted to local families," Stephanie Stensgard said. "Then we got on Facebook."

There were still nearly 40 Marines and a few Navy medics remaining in Weaver's platoon, and the push was on to see that none of them went without. The group's Facebook page soon had more than 100 members, with people from as far away as Florida and Illinois adopting the remaining Marines and medics.

The donations also began pouring in.

The Marine Corps League's Wasatch Detachment raised more than $1,000 for the project, and the Walgreens in Vernal donated 641 candy bars. There were also donations of toothbrushes, toothpaste, baby wipes and other basic toiletries.

Then, on Tuesday, Shannon Karren, owner of Dan's Tire in Vernal, announced that he'd pay to ship every one of the Christmas care packages.

The overwhelming show of support came just months after the death of Marine Sgt. Daniel David Gurr brought the true cost of the war home to Vernal. Gurr, 21, was shot and killed during an Aug. 5 foot patrol in Afghanistan's Helmand Province, near the same area where the adopted platoon is now serving.

Those involved in the care package drive say their act of service is a way of paying tribute to their hometown hero.

"I think losing Daniel this summer has raised awareness as to what these guys are going through over there," Stephanie Stensgard said. "I just think we all want to give back, even if it's just a letter letting them know that we care."

Each box packed Monday night contained a stocking filled with candy and a letter from a local elementary school student. The care packages have been a big morale boost for the Marines.

Logan Weaver told KSL in a Facebook message that after the first package arrived, "all anyone talked about was how they could get adopted so that they could get some care packages, too.”

Weaver's unit is scheduled to be in Afghanistan until April. His mom said they can expect to continue receiving care packages as long as they're overseas.

"It's awesome!," Kris Weaver said, turning to look at the group of people packing boxes for her son and his brothers in arms, before getting emotional.

"I told you not to make me cry," she said.

Stensgard continues to get requests from people looking to adopt a Marine, airman, soldier or sailor. She said the group in Vernal has no plans to stop showing its support for America's deployed troops.

"We'll keep it going, and when these guys come home, we'll look for another (unit)," she said.

E-mail: gliesik@desnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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