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The stadium is quiet, the morning fog hasn’t even rolled out yet and the parking lot is empty. Except for one van full of marines.
They wanted to be ready when the fans started getting there.
Marines stationed themselves outside every single gate and around the parking lot prior to the Chargers game against the Panthers on Sunday. This time, they weren’t there as protectors, but as benefactors.
They were collecting toys for the Toys For Tots drive.
Sgt. Jeffrey Burke was one of the marines who had been at the stadium all day collecting donations. He got back from his most recent tour in Australia in September of 2011.
He said the support was overwhelming.
“Wives were getting mad at their husbands for forgetting their gift,” Burke said. “Everyone’s just really glad to see us.”
As an active marine, it’s not very often Burke gets to come face-to-face with the ones he is protecting.
Today was a rare exception.
“To be honest, you never get tired of ‘thank-yous,’” Burke said. “It’s really great to see everyone that cares about us. Everyone’s just real supportive and it feels great.”
They are collecting toys through December 18th.