Marine from Stevenson Ranch is killed in Afghanistan

Posted: 3rd June 2010 by Jessica Maddin in Uncategorized

I saw this story on the news last night. Stevenson Ranch is not too far from Pasadena. This story just really broke my heart. My thoughts and prayers go out to this family. Read on…

Taken from:

STEVENSON RANCH — Last week, Michelle Unthank woke to an early morning call from her son Jake William Suter, who had just landed in Afghanistan for his first deployment as a United States Marine Corps private. Suter told his mom the war-torn country was worse than he’d imagined, but the 18-year-old quickly moved on to the subject of girl troubles.

Over the next few days Unthank and her husband, Chris, Suter’s stepfather, bought and shipped off their only child some items they thought he’d need: bottles of shampoo and toothpaste, baby wipes, socks, insoles, DVDs and Red Vine licorice sticks. They expected to get a big thank you letter back from Suter soon. Instead, they got a knock on the door at 6 a.m. Saturday from two Marine sergeants. Their son had been killed in action.

“I fell to my knees… I cried out, `Why?’ and yelled that it was too soon,” the Stevenson Ranch mother said. “My son had been through months of training and boot camp to prepare for war, but no one prepares you as a parent for the pain of losing a child.”

On Wednesday, the Marine’s death was confirmed by military officials who said Suter died Saturday while supporting combat operations in Helmand province. He had been in Afghanistan just five days. Suter’s passing became national news when network television and news wires ran pictures of his coffin arriving back in the U.S. on Memorial Day. He was based at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

In Stevenson Ranch, flowers and candles continued to arrive at the Unthanks’ home as hundreds of neighbors, friends and strangers gathered Wednesday night in the quiet suburban neighborhood for a candlelight vigil. Some 300 to 400 people gathered, singing songs, saying prayers and exchanging memories of Suter. Among them was Suter’s cousin, Joseph Fowler, a Marine who went to boot camp with his cousin and will be deploying to Afghanistan in September. Asked if Suter’s death changed his mind about Afghanistan, Fowler said: “Well, before I was scared and now I just want to get over there to honor Jake’s memory.”

Over the weekend, neighbor Cecile Marin-Manalo, 40, sent out letters to her neighbors inviting them to a small prayer vigil, which she thought would bring some peace and solace to the Unthanks. But what was supposed to be a small gathering quickly grew as friends spread the news of Suter’s passing via email and social networking sites. By Wednesday evening several elected officials, including Congressman Buck McKeon and Santa Clarita Councilman Bob Kellar had agreed to speak at the vigil.

“At first I was nervous that they (the Unthanks) would not like this attention because they are very private people, but I felt they deserved to see the community come together to thank them for the sacrifice their son had made for all of us,” Marin-Manalo said. Manalo-Marin said, like her, many people in the community were touched by Suter’s charisma.

Sgt. Jose Medrano, 28, who was Suter’s recruiter, said he was also immediately struck by the teen’s innate leadership skills. “From the moment I met him, I could see he was a motivator, a tough guy, a charger,” Medrano said. The recruiter said he still remembers how confidently Suter told him that he was ready to enlist. “I was telling him about the benefits he would receive as a Marine and he stopped me and told me `I’m ready, where do I sign up,”‘ Medrano said.

It wasn’t quite as easy for Michelle Unthank to accept her only son’s desire to enlist in the Marines. Suter was never a straight “A” student, but Unthank said her son had a great way with words, written or spoken. Suter also tested in the top 10th percentile on his military entrance exam, which could have landed him any job in the Marine Corps – originally the teen had signed up to go work in military intelligence.

Suter even dreamed of one day becoming president of the United States. Unthank joked with him that he should be more realistic with his goals, but secretly believed him capable of reaching his big ambitions. Weeks after beginning his senior year at West Ranch High School in Stevenson Ranch though, Suter made it clear to his mother that joining the Marines was all he wanted to do immediately after graduating. “He thought it would be a good way to start a political career, serving his country,” Unthank said. She never imagined that about a year later she’d be faced with the devastating loss of her “boy.”

Chris Unthank, 34, who raised Suter from the age of six, held Michelle’s hand tightly as her eyes welled up. The stepfather said he’s tried to keep his crying to a minimum over the last few days, in an effort to be strong for his wife. His strength is broken briefly though by a visit from a coworker who brought flowers and a card.

“It is very hard to let him go,” Chris Unthank said. Right before Suter deployed, he called home and had a three-hour conversation with his stepfather, revealing some of the regrets he already had in his short lifetime. “He said he wished he would’ve paid more attention in school, taken tougher classes,” Unthank said.

One thing he never mentioned though, even during the toughest parts of his boot-camp training, was any regret with his decision to serve his country. Chris and Michelle Unthank said they take some comfort in that. “My son died a warrior,” Michelle Unthank said. “Now he’s been called home… to complete another mission in a better place.”

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On this Memorial Day…

Posted: 30th May 2010 by Jessica Maddin in Uncategorized

Memorial Day

Our thanks to those who answered the call.
Who took up the challenge and gave their all.
God bless those more brave than me.
So that we can live in this Land of the Free. – Marty L. Horn

Photos and poem used with permission,

On this Memorial Day we need to stop and pay with sincere conviction our respects for those who died protecting and preserving the freedoms we enjoy, for we owe those honored dead more than we can ever repay.

Taking Jessica’s Hope Project to the next level

Posted: 30th May 2010 by Jessica Maddin in Uncategorized

Total amount raised as of 5/29/10: $2405.43
Number of boxes shipped: 48

It’s been a pretty insane week and I am sorry for not being able to update sooner. The first part of the week involved me dealing with a brake issue with my car. I really want to say thank you to Rob and if you need a car repair and live in the Pasadena, California area please take it to him at AAMCO. He is a very honest mechanic and was nice enough to work with me on the issue I had on my car. I already had spent $200 with someone else and replaced the brake pads which did not fix the problem. It turns out the master brake cylinder also needed replacing. He originally quoted me $250 but was nice enough to agree to my offer of $200. I explained to him that it was not that I did not want to pay him I literally did not have the money and only had $200. I also found out he has a stepson in Iraq who is due home the first week of July. I told him about the project and even gave him a copy of the Pasadena Star News article which he requested so he could hang it in their shop.

Wednesday was a good day as I went to the post office and sent out another 15 boxes to various contacts. I am preparing another large shipment to go out this coming week as well. I love the post office I go to because they are so kind and nice. They know all about the project and everyone wants to help me. They gave me some more priority mail tape, custom forms, and labels since I was running low.

The most exciting news I have saved for last. Part of the reason I was not able to post until now was because I was preparing a proposal to give to my CEO at 24 Hour Fitness. The proposal basically asked if 24 Hour Fitness would be kind enough to sponsor my start up costs to establish Jessica’s Hope Project as an official 501 c3 non profit organization. The total cost to do so is about $1800 which I do not have. I sent the proposal off to Randy, the VP of Fitness and Development at 24, who told me he would pass it along to Carl. When I came home last night I had an email of Randy that absolutely blew my mind. I will touch on the highlights.

We’d be proud to underwrite your application for the 501c3 status…Bill Quinn, who heads up all our merchandising and was a big part of getting you the product shipment is working on a proposal so that we would be able to supply you with a monthly set of products for the foundation of some of your packages.  Not sure exact details yet but we should have sometime next week for you to look at.

I had to pinch myself to make sure this wasn’t a dream. Not only would them help me get my 501 c3 status but they are going to be setting it up to where I get a monthly supply of goods to put in the care packages? I was so overwhelmed and overjoyed. I kept staring at my screen and must of read the email at least 100 times. I was brought to tears at their kindness. I feel even so much better now as I sent out these care packages to troops because I know I will be able to continue to send them products they desperately need and ultimately deserve. Not to mention this could not of happened on a more special weekend. This will be a Memorial Day that I will never forget. It is definitely going to be an interesting summer and I cannot wait to see what is in store for the rest of the year. I am meeting with a dean from my old high school on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of a collection drive and fundraiser for September. I already have one in the works for Woodbury and hope we are able to do it.

I even had a back up plan in case Carl couldn’t accommodate my request. I got an email from Wheel of Fortune, which I applied to last year online, that they are having tryouts at Casino Morongo on Wednesday. Guess who is making the trip out there? ME! I am going to try to win some big money. I have been a fan of the show since I was very little and am quite good. Cross your fingers for me. I hope i make it and have the opportunity to be on the show.

I am wishing you all a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.

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Tampons in Iraq: A life saved

Posted: 30th May 2010 by Jessica Maddin in Uncategorized

Found this amazing true story through a friend of mine and I just had to share it. You can best believe I will be sending some tampons to even all male units now and include a print out of this!

Don’t worry, it’s a good story – and worth reading – it’s even humorous in parts. It’s from the mother of a Marine in Iraq. She writes:

“My son told me how wonderful the care packages we had sent them were and wanted me to tell everyone thank you. He said that one guy we’ll call Marine X, got a girl care package and everyone was giving him a hard time. My son said, ‘Marine X got some really nice smelling lotion and everyone really likes it, so every time he goes to sleep they steal it from him.’ I told my son I was really sorry about the mistake, and if he wanted I would send Marine X another package. He told me not to worry about Marine X because every time I send something to him, Marine X thinks it’s for him too. He said when my husband and I sent the last care package, Marine X came over  to his cot picked up the box, started fishing through it, and said, ‘What’d we get this time?’ ”

“My son said they had the most fun with Marine X’s package. He said he wasn’t sure who we were sending the pack to, but the panties were size 20, and he said one of the guys got on top of the Humvee and jumped off with the panties over his head and yelled, ‘Look at me, I’m an Airborne Ranger!!!’ One of the guys attached the panties to an antenna and it blew in the wind like a windsock. He said it entertained them for quite awhile. Then of course, they had the tampons.”

“When he brought this up my imagination just went running, but he continued: My son said they had to go on a mission and Marine X wanted the Chapstick and lotion for the trip. He grabbed a bunch of the items from his care package and got in the Humvee. As luck would have it he grabbed the tampons too, and my son said everyone was teasing him about, not forgetting his feminine hygiene products.’ ”

“He said things went well for a while, then the convoy was ambushed and a Marine was shot. He said the wound was pretty clean, but it was deep. He said they were administering first aid but couldn’t get the bleeding to slow down, and someone said, ‘Hey use Marine X’s tampons.’ My son said they put the tampon in the wound. At this point my son profoundly told me, ‘Mom did you know that tampons expand?’ ”

“Well, yeah!”

“They successfully slowed the bleeding until the guy got better medical attention. When they went to check on him later the surgeon told them,’You guys saved his life. If you hadn’t stopped that bleeding he would have bled to death.’ My son said, ‘Mom, the tampons sent by the Marine Moms by mistake saved a Marine’s life.’ ”

“At this point I asked him, ‘Well what did you do with the rest of the tampons?’ He said, ‘Oh, we divided them up and we all have them in our flak jackets, and I kept two for our first aid kit.’ ”

“I am absolutely amazed by the ingenuity of our Marines, and can’t believe that something that started out as a mistake, then turned into a joke, ended up saving someone’s life. My sister said she doesn’t believe in mistakes. She believes God had a plan all along. She believes that female care package was sent to Marine X to save our Marine.”

“Either way, our efforts have boosted the morale of many Marines, provided much needed items for our troops, AND saved the life of a Marine! God bless every one of you for your efforts and hard work, and God bless our Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, and everyone.”


Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus, et Fidelis!

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An update on JHP

Posted: 20th May 2010 by Jessica Maddin in Uncategorized

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Total amount raised as of 5/20/10: $2303.72

I am finally finished with the Spring semester so my focus can be primarily on Jessica’s Hope Project. I am happy to report the happy news above! We have surpassed $2000 and by a whole lot I might add!

Last week we celebrated Grandma’s (AKA Wiwa) birthday. I caught this adorable picture of her and couldn’t help but laugh at the backdrop of protein bars and muscle milk.

Raquel Ogaz, an old school friend from Saint Philips, came over last night and dropped off some items that she picked up from Costco for us to include in our care packages. Thank you so much for your donation!

I am in the process of attempting to calculate postage online, but am running into a few bumps in the road. Hopefully they will be resolved soon and I can get this next round of boxes out. I am also happy to report I have recieved confirmation that the first 7 boxes we sent out on 4/30/10 have all been recieved. Some have promised me some photos which I can’t wait to see!

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Here is a small update about how we are doing!

Total amount raised as of 5/14/10: $1808.72
Number of boxes shipped: 33

My generous godfather Danny came and helped me out on Thursday.  He took me to the post office in his suburban to send out 22 more boxes! My favorite postal worker Rick was there thank goodness. He nearly had a heart attack when I told him how many I was sending out. But lucky for us he is as fast as lightning! We were in and out in under an hour which was fantastic. Here are a few photos from that day. Enjoy!

I am also in the process of coordinating some collection drives at my school and old high school in September for holiday care packages. It is far away, but exciting nonetheless! My cousin Danielle interns at a hospital and was able to speak to her director who is also interested in doing a collection drive this summer. Things are going great! Gotta get to bed because I have to work tomorrow morning.

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Our first response from one of our warriors!

Posted: 13th May 2010 by Jessica Maddin in Uncategorized

I am simply overjoyed at having gotten this correspondence earlier this afternoon. It is the first we have heard from our warriors that we have sent boxes to through Jessica’s Hope Project. I hope you enjoy his note as much as I did. My heart is filled with joy and I cannot wait to just keep continuing to help our deployed warriors overseas.

Aloha everyone! This morning we were going about our daily routine, preparing reports, getting ready for the flight schedule, performing scheduled maintenance on the aircraft, not thinking today was going to be any different than any other day.  When the mail clerk announced mail call, it was just part of the normal routine, so we weren’t particularly excited.  To our surprise we received one of the best Any Marine boxes that anyone can remember!  When we read the outside of the box, we were all sort of suspect, because a lot of times we get candy, or snacks that aren’t that high in quality, which we are very grateful for, but when we opened the package from Jessica and her hope project we were instantly overjoyed!  It is simply put, the best package that we have received from someone other than our relatives and loved ones ever!  I have been on 7 deployments and been part of the Any Marine program for the last 3, and I don’t think I have seen a package as fitness oriented and perfect as this one.  Everything is already passed out and the magazines have been read by each person in the shop, and we haven’t even had the box yet for 3 hours.  This box was perfect!  We all thank you for your support!  It is support from great patriots like yourselves that keeps us on track to continue our mission.

Semper Fidelis,
CWO Famy

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Happy Mother’s Day

Posted: 10th May 2010 by Jessica Maddin in Uncategorized

“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” – Washington Irving

Hoping all the mothers in the world had a great day today! I am sending some extra love to all the mothers who have sons and daughters currently deployed overseas. My heart truly goes out to you strong women and I hope you have/are able to have communicated with your children on this special day.

I got up at 5 am and worked at the gym until 11 am. I received my employee of the month certificate and had my photo taken for the wall. I had a gym member who comes in every Sunday when I work give me $100 Cash for JHP. He wishes to remain anonymous. I am still in awe of the generosity of everyone who has donated. In two weeks I have raised over $1500! I am so grateful and appreciative of everyone’s efforts.

After work I  headed to a Champagne Brunch in Old Town Pasadena with the family. We had a great time, but I was sad my Godmother could not join us. After brunch everyone went over to visit Sandra at her house. She is my aunt featured in some of my videos I posted and has been aiding me in putting together care packages as well as helping get donations. On Friday she had to go to the emergency room due to some intense pain and they discovered a mass the size of a grapefruit near one of her ovaries. I am taking her to the hospital tomorrow to get some additional tests done and hopefully get her surgery scheduled to remove it. I am bringing custom forms, labels, and paper to write some letters to keep me busy since I am not sure how long we will be there. Please keep her in your prayers.

I will hopefully be sending the next round of packages on Tuesday. I am very excited and am hoping that many of the packages we have already sent will be arriving to our troops this week.

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Employee of the Month

Posted: 7th May 2010 by Jessica Maddin in Uncategorized

Hahaha, Thought this was a great little image I had to share… especially because guess who won employee of the month for May? ME! I am especially happy about this because it is my one year anniversary with the company this month. I am sad that I missed the meeting but I heard my manager told all my co-workers about what I was doing so that made me feel good. Of all the meetings to miss, dangit. I was planning to go to it originally but got so consumed in finals week that I had no idea what day it was. I went to deposit some checks at the bank and passed by my work and was like OH NO!

I have had to put the care packages on hold for the last 2 days because it’s finals week and I had to write a research paper as well. I am happy to say I will be back to customs forms and priority mail tape extravaganzas as of tomorrow afternoon. Can’t wait to be out for summer break so i can just immerse myself completely into this project. As of today we are $62.50 away from hitting the $1250 mark for shipping donations. Once we hit that, that means we have enough money to cover 100 boxes! Simply amazing… I want you to know that it’s not ending there. This is going to continue all summer long and even past that. We will be continuing to raise money to sponsor these boxes overseas to our troops who need them. Once I get a good portion of the donations from 24 Hour Fitness out I will be putting together some collection drives as well as going to other businesses see if they would be willing to donate some items. Until next time…. 🙂

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The Cousins & Care Packages

Posted: 5th May 2010 by Jessica Maddin in Uncategorized

Here is a video I shot of the first care package I put together and sealed for Jessica’s Hope Project. I kinda ramble a bit because I was food deprived.  I also added a magazine to the box and did not realize what one of the headlines on the front cover was. I guess Fitness Magazines can have some racy articles, haha. I didn’t even notice until my cousins pointed it out to me that I was “supposedly” focusing in on it too. Trust me that was not intentional.

This was shot last Saturday when my cousins Domenic and Danielle came over to help me prepared more care packages. We are a bit silly. Also I made a really big goof and called people in the Navy “seamen.” I hope I do not offend any sailors!

Waiting to be sent at the post office

Did not get to take any video at the post office but I did get a nice photo of my favorite postal worker Rick with the first package after it was processed and ready to go. Hope you enjoy the little behind the scenes look at my project. It really is fun documenting all of this and I feel that it makes it more legit because people can see what I am doing and what their money is going to. Here is one of more packages sitting on the ledge waiting to be processed at the post office. Oh, and WHY HELLO ELLEN!

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