By Audra Calloway, Picatinny Public Affairs OfficeFebruary 8, 2007
A local business owner was recently recognized by the Joint Munition and Lethality Life Cycle Management Command commander for his generosity and kindness in support of wounded military members.
During a tour of the Jackie Evans Inc., manufacturing facility in Passaic Maj. Gen. Paul S. Izzo presented Mario Monaco Jr. with a two-star note in recognition of continued support to wounded Soldiers Jan. 23.
Since Jackie Evans opened for business in 1966, the company has manufactured at its various facilities an array of clothing items from Girl Scout apparel to designer label Susana Monaco.
However, these days Jackie Evans' employees also manufacture a new product that never reaches stores - blankets for wounded Soldiers and Marines.
The blanket donations to wounded service members are a fitting gesture because Jackie Evans' owner has deep rooted ties to the military. Monaco is a retired gunnery sergeant who served as a Marine reservist with the Company G, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, here at Picatinny. He is also a current member of the Lance Cpl. Robert J. Slattery Detachment of the Marine Corps League, a Marine support organization.
One of the ways the Marine Corps League supports Marines and their families is through the Marines Helping Marines program. The program was created to aid injured Marine Corps personnel recovering at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.
As part of the Marines Helping Marines program, Slattery Detachment members visit Bethesda and Walter Reed once a month to give "ditty" kits, along with encouragement and good wishes, to injured military personnel.
The "ditty" kits include various gift cards, apparel and other products donated by corporations. The league also distributes the blankets manufactured by Jackie Evans.
"It's a little peace of home we try to provide them," said Monaco. "We tell (the wounded), 'This is not going to solve your problems, we just want you to know we're here for you. What can we do''"
Monaco, who designed the blankets, said the wounded become very attached to the blankets and almost begin to think of them as their security blankets. He said he remembered putting a blanket on a severely wounded Marine and later the Marine's father called to thank him. The father said his son loved the blanket and held onto it every day.
"(The father) actually started crying on the phone," said Monaco, who later sent the family another blanket because the original had meant so much to them all.
Monaco's company produces two types of blankets, one with a Marine logo and one with an Army logo. Even though Monaco is part of the Marine Corps League, he said he wants to help all wounded military personnel.
"We're all one, it doesn't matter," said Monaco.
Monaco donates some of the Army blankets to Picatinny for Izzo and Picatinny Sergeant Major Sgt. Maj. Gerald Schreck to distribute during their visits to Walter Reed.
In recognition of Jackie Evans' generosity, Izzo thanked Monaco for supporting the wounded service members and presented him with a two-star note.
"Because of the efforts of individuals like you and companies like Jackie Evans, these exceptional men and women being treated at these two facilities realize that they have not been forgotten by their country and their fellow citizens," the note read.
Schreck echoed Izzo's thank you and presented Monaco with a sketch of Picatinny inscribed with the words, "Picatinny salutes Jackie Evans, Inc. for supporting America's wounded war fighters."
Schreck also told a story about a visit he took to Walter Reed. Schreck said he spoke with a multiple-amputee sufferer and gave him one of the blankets. As the Soldier accepted the blanket, he cradled it against his chest and started crying. The exchange was so powerful Schreck said even the medic in the room was crying.
"These guys really appreciate these blankets," said Schreck.
Monaco estimates that 200 to 400 blankets have been distributed to wounded military personnel.