This article was originally written Joshua Stewart by and appeared on The Marine Corps Times.
When Marines put their boots on the ground, there’s a decent chance that there’s a pair of socks from Jim and Carla Hogan inside.
Since May 2011 the couple has donated approximately 330,000 pairs of socks, mostly to deployed Marines. Their generosity began after their son, Lance Cpl. Donald Hogan was killed by an IED blast in Nawa, Afghanistan. His friends from 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment were very compassionate to the Hogans as they grieved, and the family wanted to help their son’s friends through their deployment.
“When Donald was killed, the kids that he served with were very kind to us,” Jim Hogan said. “And when they went back we asked what they needed, and they said socks.”
The first shipment was bought from a department store and sent by mail to his platoon in 1/5. News spread across Marines in Afghanistan, and request for more socks started arriving at their home in San Clemente, Calif. Jim Hogan said he didn’t know earlier that Marines had to buy their own socks when deployed. It’s a simple piece of gear, but for a Marine in a far-off post, the exchange may be out of reach, or they might not have a particular size.
The Hogans bought thousands of socks and their giving quickly grew. They formed Socks For Heroes, a non-profit charity, and started hosting fundraisers so they could afford more of the garments and pay for shipping. They made deals with hosiery companies and starting buying pairs of regulation socks for $0.56 a pair. And they worked with a local small businessman with a knack for sending large shipments to combat zones to coordinate their mailings.
Soon, their care packages not only included socks by the caseload, but thousands of blankets, sets of long underwear, countless energy shots, and other gear that makes the difference between misery and comfort down range. At any given time they were supporting two battalions, a handful of other smaller units, plus some soldiers, Jim Hogan said.
They were honored in September by the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton for their efforts.
“I know from time to time, you’re recognized for the good contributions you make,” Commanding General Major Gen. Larry D. Nicholson said at a ceremony at Camp Pendleton. “This time on behalf of the division, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for this great organization that you have built.”
The Hogans, after hundreds of thousands of socks, ceremoniously donated their last final case. They said that 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, the last unit scheduled to leave Afghanistan, will receive a shipment.
Donald Hogan, his parents recalled, was always fascinated with the military. He would dress up as a soldier for Halloween and even studied weapon systems as a kid.
“He loved Leatherneck magazine,” Carla Hogan said. “He hid them under the bed and would read them by flashlight at night.”
And he loved his grandfather, a Marine veteran who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
“My dad was a three-war vet. He was the type of Marine that when Marines talk about it they get tears in their eyes,” Jim Hogan said.
After high school Donald Hogan went to college for a bit, but it wasn’t for him. His parents joke that it seemed like he was enrolled for just an hour. His mom was worried about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but her son decided to enlist.
“It was inevitable, but as a mother you don’t have to accept inevitability,” she said.
After recruit training he ended up at Camp Pendleton, just miles away from his family home. Eventually he and 1/5 deployed to Afghanistan.
While on patrol he saw that a kite string on a road had gone taut, indicating that an IED was about to go off. He pushed another Marine out of the way of the explosion and warned others about the danger. The blast killed him. In January 2011 Navy Secretary Ray Mabus awarded him the Navy Cross for his actions.
After his death the Marines supported his family as they grieved. They all grew closer, and their relationships grew or time and through their charity. The Hogans said that they got to experience their son’s world and culture in a way they wouldn’t have before.
“They’re respectful, kind, intricately connected. They’re good people,” Carla Hogan said.
The war in Afghanistan is coming to and end as well the Hogan’s sock donations. The Marine Corps is trying to go back to its roots as a band of sea-based warriors, and the Hogans are looking for a new mission for their charity. Carla Hogan said she’s trying to find a way to support military spouses; she wants to create a clearing house where they can receive training to start their own businesses, or find careers that allow them to work remotely. That way, when their Marine receives a permanent change of station, they don’t have to disrupt their careers.
It will help military families earn additional income, and help people keep steady work, even when Uncle Sam uproots their homes. Carla Hogan said it also helps her keep in contact with Marines, and the people that were important to her son.
“It’s been a wonderful adventure and I don’t want to see it over yet,” she said.