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Santa scout: South Jeffco teenager on a mission to brighten holidays for U.S. Marines

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By AJ Vicens

It may only be September, but David Kozak is looking to assemble a few good Christmas stockings.

And the aspiring Eagle Scout knows exactly whose holidays he wants to make bright.

"U.S. Marines," he said. "They're pretty elite, and they're overseas fighting so we can live in freedom back here. They deserve a Christmas more than anyone else, and they're not getting one."

In all fairness, Kozak, a 15-year-old Chatfield High School student, is a bit biased. His older brother Jason Kozak, 19, is a U.S. Marine stationed in Okinawa, Japan. So when the time came for David to choose a project for his Eagle Scout badge, he thought of his brother and his fellow Marines serving overseas.

A little research led David to the Marine Corps Family Foundation, an Oregon-based group whose mission is to encourage and support U.S. Marines and their families. One of the group's efforts is Operation Santa, in which volunteers stuff stockings with various items and send them to Marines deployed overseas. David and his family are planning to set up collection boxes around the area soon but haven't decided exactly where they'll be.

The foundation shipped more than 6,000 stockings in 2004 to Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since then, the group has sent more than 75,000 stockings to Marines and other soldiers.

David hopes to stuff enough stockings with everything from socks to snacks to send to his brother's entire platoon of 50 Marines.

"That's my low goal," David said. "I'm starting low, and as we go along we'll adjust the goals higher."

A woman from Aurora is sewing the stockings for him, and he hopes to gather enough materials to send the stockings by early to mid-November so the Marines have them by Christmas. If he gathers more materials than he needs, he'll find other platoons to share them with.

David said his brother knows about the project, and appreciates what he's doing.

"He just hopes that he gets one," David said. "That's all he cares about."

David respects all the branches of the military, but he didn’t want to spread his fellow Boy Scouts' efforts too thin.

"It's easy to choose because the Marines hit close to home for me," David said. "But if there were no organizations that helped Marines, I would go to a different service and try to help them as much as I could."

It also helps that David is planning to follow in his brother's footsteps.

"I'm actually probably going to join the Marines," he said. "I'm pretty certain about it, but something could come along and influence me in the meantime."

David hopes that South Jeffco residents respond to his efforts and help ensure that more than a few U.S. Marines have something to unwrap at Christmas.

"The more Marines I can help, the better," David said.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

**INFO BOX***

If you'd like to help David Kozak in his efforts to provide U.S. Marines with Christmas stockings, call him at 303-948-3168, or e-mail him at OperationSantaDenver@gmail.com. Kozak is also looking for cash donations to help with shipping, which he estimates will come to about $2 per Marine. Visit www.MarineCorpsFamilyFoundation.org for more information.

Items needed for the stockings (among others):

• White socks

• Granola and snack bars

• Calling cards

• Paperback books

• Eyedrops

• Hand warmers

• AAA, AA and 9-volt batteries

• Lip balm

• DVDs and CDs, new and used

• Lightweight knit gloves