Part of the year, they are teammates on Little League teams. The rest of the time, they are opponents on middle school teams. In war, they are family.
Members of the Martinez-Evans Little League's Marlins Major League team have rallied around teammate C.J. Marshall, whose father - Walker B. Marshall Jr. - was sent to the war against Iraq with the Augusta-based Army Reserve's 319th Transportation Company.
"It is touching us kind of hard out at Martinez-Evans at Kelley (Park) where we play, because C.J.'s dad is a huge part of that out there," said Angie Hood, whose son Kory is on the Riverside team. "He is not a coach, but he is a dad. If the team got down, he would walk in the dug out, come back out and it would be a new team. He is very uplifting and very encouraging, just an awesome part of our team."
When the word spread, Kim Evans, teammate Will Evans' mother, asked the Riverside team to put together a care package to send to the company as part of Operation Care Package. The missing face of Sgt. Marshall was the inspiration.
The boys - all ages 12 and 13 and in the sixth and seventh grades - and their parents went shopping for anything troops might need or enjoy, including lots of hard candy, gum, lip balm, foot powder, shampoo and breathing strips, Hood said. All the items were gathered and taken to the U.S. Army Training Center Friday where family members of the 319th packaged them to send overseas.
"I have always been very patriotic and like to show my support," said Riverside coach Ryan Guy. "So, when the parents came to me with this idea, I was all for it."
C.J. and his family, including 13-year-old brother B.J., heard their father is in a hospital with minor injuries from a tank accident. After a short call with Sgt. Marshall, his father, Walker B. Marshall Sr., said not to expect him home anytime soon despite the injuries.
"He said he would come home as soon as he finished his mission," said Marshall, who helps take care of his grandsons while his son is away.
Sgt. Marshall was the inspiration for the care package the team helped make up. His father is proud of and has encouraged the friendship between all of the boys despite attending different schools. Hood and Evans play for Riverside Middle School's B baseball team, while C.J. plays at Evans Middle School.
"We are just one family at different schools," Marshall told the team and his grandsons. "You just have to look at it that way."
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