U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael Elias and his fellow soldiers had a problem.
During occasional downtime in Iraq, the Secaucus native and his peers wanted to play sports, but lacked enough equipment.
Thanks to the work of two downtown Secaucus businesses, that problem is now solved. Working together, Nicole Michaels Salon and Filomena’s, both of Front Street, collected a host of sporting equipment that was sent to Elias and his unit in Iraq.
From request to reality
Michael, 22, has been serving in the Marines for almost four years. He has been in Iraq since early March. He is posted at Al Taqaddum airbase, approximately 45 miles to the west of Baghdad.
He volunteered to serve in Iraq, extending his Marine contract to do so.
Nancy Elias is Michael’s mother and the owner of Nicole Michaels Salon. She explained her son’s predicament while cutting a client’s hair.
“Michael called me from Iraq and asked me if we had any old baseball gloves and bats that they could play with,” he said. “The [Marines] can’t exactly go to the store over there.”
Elias spoke to Joey Griffo, a Secaucus town court officer and senior bus driver who is a longtime family friend. Griffo reached out to his contacts in town, including members of the local Kiwanis club.
Griffo was more than pleased with the results.
“The stuff we got was phenomenal,” he said. “We even got left-handed baseball gloves. I didn’t even think of that. It goes to show how good people are around here.”
Griffo watched Michael grow up. He hopes that he gets the chance to watch him live long.
“I just hope he comes home soon and enjoys life,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Grateful at home and abroad
Mayumi Elias, 24, is Michaels’ wife of almost two years. She sat in the salon with her daughter Jade, 15 months. She is five months pregnant with a son, whom the couple plans to name Michael Angel Elias. She feels that the people who contributed goods have acted as guardian angels for American soldiers overseas.
“It was just an idea, but everybody got together and made it happen,” she said. “I so appreciate what they are doing for my husband and the people with him in Iraq fighting for our country. I can’t do it by myself. We are so lucky.”
When Michael and his unit heard the shipment was on its way, they were the ones who felt lucky. Nancy Elias described the Marines’ reaction.
“They all went crazy,” she said. “They were so happy.”
Another sporting goods shipment is now planned. For Nancy Elias, the community’s gift also gives her some piece of mind.
“It feels good because it’s a piece of home,” she said. “Michael said that otherwise all that he hears all day is the other guys shooting at them. Doing this helps me. When he feels good, I feel good. If he’s in good spirits, then I am.”
Anyone wishing to donate any sporting goods for the next shipment, please drop off items at Nicole Michaels Salon at 163 Front Street or at Filomena’s, located at 143 Front Street, both in downtown Secaucus.
Mark J. Bonamo can be reached at email@example.com.