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Local Marines battling for $25K grant

Local Marine corps members got together to celebrate Semper Fi style on Sunday.

The annual get-together is typically just a way for the military families to reconnect, but this year, the Marines are asking the community to join in as they work to help local homeless veterans.

Veteran Jean Nielson helped to dole out slices of cake on Sunday as she got ready to celebrate her 58th wedding anniversary with her husband, who is also a Marine. And though Nielson joked about feeling old, she said she likes to feel like a part of the group. Commandant Ralph Lillig said they station the picnic in Blackfoot to pull marines from all over southeast Idaho.

“The Marines have a special brotherhood and we like to keep in touch. And because we’re a smaller organization, there are fewer of us, we really work hard to keep in touch,” Lillig said.

Not only do they work hard to keep in touch, but they work hard to keep the community together, as well. Earlier this year, the local detachment got a grant from The Home Depot to remodel Cpl. Phillip Baldwin’s home in Fort Hall. Baldwin lost both of his legs from an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

“We wanted to do this for one of our own, for this community,” said Marine Ron Tapia.

The project was so successful, Tapia said, their work got noticed. The Home Depot nominated Marine Detachment 698 for a $25,000 grant competition. They’ll be competing against groups in Rochester, NY; Houston, TX and San Francisco.

“And I don’t want anybody to get scared, I want them to know that we can win,” Tapia said.

The money would go to make some much-needed renovations to Southeast Idaho Community Action Agency’s Homeless Veterans Transitional Shelter. Those bigger cities may have more people, but southeastern Idaho has more heart, Tapia said.

“It’s Pocatello competing against these big cities, we’ve already got them on the run,” he said.

And after 58 years, Nielson might know more about that kind of heart that anybody else. She’s excited to see this competition get off the ground and said, Idaho’s veterans deserve to win.

“After what veterans have gone through, that they need to be recognized, that’s how I feel anyway, so does my husband,” she said.

The voting starts on Aug. 1, and people can vote for the local Marines by going to The Home Depot’s Facebook page, clicking on Aprons in Action and voting for Pocatello. Tapia is hoping he’ll get 50,000 votes.

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