NRA Familyrecently had the honor of speaking to Jim and Carla Hogan, the founders of Socks For Heroes. Here's what they had to say.
1. NRA Family:Your nonprofit group, Socks For Heroes, has a unique mission: Arranging for clean socks to be sent to our troops deployed overseas. I imagine our readers’ first question is going to be, why socks?
Jim and Carla Hogan: One of the things that most people don’t really make the connection about is the fact that socks are one of the primary tools for an infantryman. They spend an awful lot of time on their feet marching, which means that socks take on a whole new importance. We’ve had commanders tell us that, next to ammunition and food, socks are a make-or-break piece of equipment. You see, Marine and Army infantry units deploy to areas where there usually aren’t laundry facilities, so being able to have a regular supply of clean socks is really very useful.
2. NRA Family: What inspired you to start Socks For Heroes?
Jim and Carla Hogan: It started when our son Donald, a Marine, was killed in Afghanistan in 2009. Following his death, the Marines Donald served with were beyond kind to us. They treated us like members of their own families. Every Marine was his brother, and so we became their parents. When they deployed again, we asked them what it was we could do for them. They told us: Send them socks. At the time we didn’t know that the Marine Corps doesn’t supply socks; it’s the responsibility of the individual. So we buy them in bulk supply and ship them over. It started with a couple hundred pairs that we sent to our son’s platoon. Then we got a note from another platoon asking if we could send them socks, too…we’re now, in a little over 4 years, over 32 tons’ worth (390,000 pair) of socks.
3. NRA Family: 32 tons of socks sent overseas to the troops! It sounds like a pretty difficult logistical challenge—how do you do it?
Jim and Carla Hogan: Oddly enough, it’s something we’ve gotten good at. We have a couple of different ways we do it. We work with a wholesaler by Los Angeles, and we have manufacturers like Renfro Corporation in North Carolina, and folks all over the country who ship socks to our home. We package them up, throw them in back of my ‘67 Chevy pickup, and run them to the post office. It’s not really difficult; it’s kind of a labor of love for us.
4. NRA Family: It looks like Socks For Heroes is part of a larger group you’ve founded, San Clemente Marine Corps Support Group (SCMCSG), and that your mission isn’t confined to socks. Can you tell us more about how SCMCSG helps our troops?
Carla and Jim Hogan:As we became closer to the families, we started recognizing more of their needs. We became involved in supporting military families. That concept helped us start one of our most successful programs: a grant program for Marines to avail themselves of recreation in the city of San Clemente, Calif. Families can apply for a grant, and we pay for part of their classes or programs. We’re supporting about 300 families a year, so their kids can take swim lessons, play softball or take gymnastics. We support Christmas parties and baby showers, too—one of the groups we’re working with makes baby gifts. Wherever we see a need, we try to fill it.
We also provide support for single Marines when they return from deployment. Most people, when they think of the military, they think of kind of a faceless entity. It’s sort of like the popular perception of the Government—it’s got no meaning to them. But the military is made up of a bunch of young men and women who are some of the finest people in America, who put their lives on the line. When these units come back, a lot of the troops’ families can’t afford to come out and greet them. So when they come home, we started serving things like hamburgers and hot dogs when they came back to their barracks, so that there was someone there to greet them, so they knew they were appreciated.
Our structure also allows people who have good ideas to make them a reality. For example, there was Operation Winter Comfort. The father of a Marine called us and said he’d like to send blankets to Marines serving in Afghanistan. We set up a program and reached out to our donors. It was such a huge success, that we did it for several units. The result was over 3,000 blankets that went to Marine and Army infantry units. We realize that we don’t have the corner on the market on good ideas, and are willing to help folks who have them to bring them to fruition.
5. NRA Family: What is the most inspiring story you’ve heard during your time managing SCMCSG?
Carla and Jim Hogan: For us, it’s been a journey. We’re kind of an anomaly; a lot of people don’t know what to make of us. They seem to think that because we lost a child in a war, that we’d back away from the military. But instead we’re repaying the kindness that was shown to us, and the honor shown to our son. All we’ve tried to do is pay something back, and as a result, we have had the privilege of being able to meet so many of these fine young men that our son served with. Which is to say that there’s really not one single inspiring story, we’ve gotten to know these young men and their families, and we’ve gotten things we’ve never expected, stories of our son and his service, photos, and the ability to reach a part of our son’s life although it was brief. As a result, what’s happened is that though we lost one son, we’ve been blessed in return with many sons.
6. NRA Family: What is, to you, is the most important message that you hope our readers will walk away with?
Carla and Jim Hogan: We would hope the message that someone would take away is this: The military is made up of our nation’s children, of our nation’s fathers, our families. And that they’re still serving in harm’s way—we still have troops in the field in Afghanistan and Iraq. They deserve our support, and it’s our responsibility to make sure that they receive everything they need to continue the fight, and to know that America still supports them…that they’re not forgotten. That they’re still a part of the American conversation.
7. NRA Family: How can the average person get involved to help?
Carla and Jim Hogan: Well there’s a number of ways people can help. One of our goals is to send socks, but the other is to raise awareness, and the best way to do that is to get people involved. People can go to our website and make a donation, which makes them part of our community of support. For example, they can organize a sock drive in their hometown. We’ve had a number of businesses and civic organizations that have gotten active to collect socks.
Or they could help organize a competitive shooting event to raise money. We’ve powered our organization by running a series of competitive shooting events. We’ve found that shooters are some of the most supportive folks of our military—they’re very patriotic, and these competitive shoots have funded our ability to accomplish what we’ve done. As a result, we’ve set up the “America Shoots for our Troops” initiative that works with groups to set up shooting events to raise money for military charities. We’re more than happy to share our experience and help anyone who wants to reach out to us.