HAVERHILL — Dennis Moriarty knows exactly what it's like to walk in the boots of Marines serving in Afghanistan. So when his longtime friend Marine Sgt. Eric Andrukaitis asked him to send care packages for him and his men, Moriarty knew just what they wanted: Energy bars and peanuts to snack on while out on patrols, jump ropes for use in the gym during their free time, and calling cards for staying in touch with family back home.
"If you knew what they are going through, you wouldn't hesitate to help," said Moriarty, a Haverhill police patrolman who served with the Marines in Operation Desert Storm. "You have to help them and let them know they are not forgotten."
Andrukaitis, a Haverhill native serving with the Marine Reserves in Kabul, Afghanistan, had reached out to his friend Moriarty, hoping he might be able to send some items to the Marines. Moriarty collected items and was seeking help from his fellow police officers to raise $250 — the cost of sending the items.
But when word spread among the officers, it wasn't long before Moriarty had collected nearly $1,400.
"Almost everyone at the station kicked in $20, from the deputy on down," Moriarty said.
But it didn't end there. Three emergency room nurses at Merrimack Valley Hospital collected $300. Family members of Marines whom Moriarty knows reached out as well, including one mother who arranged for AT&T to donate hundreds of dollars in calling cards.
Andrukaitis contacted The Eagle-Tribune recently to say how happy he was at the outpouring of support.
"Dennis is sticking by the motto 'Once a Marine, Always a Marine,''' Andrukaitis said. "He has told me since he can't be here he wants to support me any way he can. It's nice to know that the troops aren't forgotten."
Moriarty had gone on a shopping spree and was able to ship 136 pounds worth of peanuts, power bars, protein mixes, jump ropes, magazines and other wish-list items to Andrukaitis.
"It's nice to be able to throw a protein bar in your pocket or snack on some of the other things they sent like Slim Jims and peanuts while on a convoy," Andrukaitis said.
He said he and his men greatly appreciated what Moriarty and other donors sent.
"We as Marines pride ourselves on being physically fit, so on our off time we hit the gym," Andrukaitis said. "It's what keeps us sane over here and it was nice to be able to finally get some good jump ropes since they were hard to come by here."
Moriarty also sent nearly $700 in calling cards donated by AT&T.
"I just got the phone cards in the mail a few days ago, so I haven't been able to pass them out," Andrukaitis said earlier this week. "I know the guys will be happy because to get on the good phones here you have to use a phone card."
Merrimack Valley Hospital emergency room nurses Debbie Jenkins, June Gallagher and Suzanne Judge-Winning collected about $300, which Moriarty put toward the purchase of $560 worth of iTunes gift cards for a Massachusetts Army National Guard unit also serving in Afghanistan.
This wasn't the first time Moriarty helped fulfill a wish list for Andrukaitis.
"While I served in Iraq in 08'-09,' he (Moriarty) sent out equipment like (armored) vests and boots," Andrukaitis said.
Moriarty said the desert boots he gave to Andrukaitis before he left for his first tour of duty were, at the time, the most sought-after boots.
"The special forces were buying them up, and you just couldn't get them," Moriarty said.
Andrukaitis recently sent Moriarty an American flag and Marine unit flag as thanks, both of which previously flew in a combat zone.
Moriarty said he plans to mount the American flag in the police station's roll call room, and will show the Marine flag to a class of fifth-grade students in Haverhill who plan to become pen pals with Andrukaitis and his fellow Marines.
• • •
Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.