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Marines make children's Christmas

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Toys for Tots comes to the aid of family burned out of their home

By John Barnhart

    It looked like it was going to be a bleak Christmas for three children in the Goodview area, although their mother, Cheyenne Martin, is thankful that her whole family is safe, even though she lost everything.

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    The family escaped from a singlewide on Afton Lane when it caught fire at 4:24 a.m. on Dec. 16. Everybody was asleep when the fire started and the trailer did not have a working smoke detector. It just happened that one of the three adults in living in the mobile home had to make a trip to the bathroom and spotted the fire beginning in an electrical outlet behind a couch in the living room. Everybody got out safely but everything in the trailer was destroyed.
    Jeff Pauley, the county’s fire marshal noted that singlewides burn very rapidly and, from a fire marshal’s perspective, the destruction was so complete that it’s not possible for him to determine the cause, other than what the adult who discovered the fire told him. Everything in the mobile home was destroyed.
    The fire meant no Christmas gifts for the three children, aged 4, 6 and 7.
    Then, the United States Marines came to the rescue.
    Corporal Brandon Overstreet is a Marine reservist, assigned to the Bravo Company of the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, located in Roanoke. As you can guess from his last name, Overstreet is from Bedford County and his mother, who lives in Montvale, told him about the problem.
    This was clearly a mission for Toys for Tots and Overstreet, along with Stephen Fields, a fellow Marine reservist were able to mobilize an effective response on short notice. Marines are good at this. Responding to something on short notice is what they do for a career.
    The two men picked out a selection of toys that were age and gender appropriate for two little boys and one little girl. One gift, a bicycle, chosen for the 7-year-old boy was a bit of a concern because the two Marines were a bit worried that it would be a bit big for him. It turned out to be perfect. Gevarian Harper, the seven year old, is big for his age, so the bike was perfect.
    The gifts were presented at the Bedford County Fire and Rescue building’s training room last week.
    The Marines, in full dress uniform, arrived first and set up the toys. Then the children came, not realizing what was waiting for them. Their faces lit up with big smiles and they were able to go through the boxes, building three piles of their selected gifts.
    “It means a lot,” said Martin, who was getting emotional.
    The two Marines were also getting emotional.
    To us, it’s really good,” said Corporal Overstreet.
    Overstreet has been involved with Toys for Tots in Christmas past, but has never had a chance to see the children receive their gifts. It’s the first time he’s been able to deliver toys to a family and see the children’s faces..
    “A family is going to get to have a Christmas that they thought they weren’t going to have this year,” Corporal Overstreet added.