The miracles started pouring in on a Sunday morning.
Roy and Robin Hall were getting ready for church when their telephone rang. A woman called inviting them to her house. She had a $50 check for them, and she wanted them to pick it up.
When the Halls returned from meeting her, another woman rang their doorbell and gave them a check for $200. She got in her car and drove away before they could get her name.
That day, Jan. 10, Neighborhood Times ran an article explaining the Halls' situation.
They were scheduled to begin their drive that evening to Camp Lejeune, N.C., to visit their 19-year-old Marine son, Evan Logan, before his Jan. 12 deployment to Afghanistan. They couldn't afford the drive or an overnight stay in a hotel, not with their townhome rent due in a few days and Roy Hall's recent unemployment.
Hall, a retired Marine himself, said it would be a sin not to go say goodbye to his son, even if that meant foregoing that month's rent.
The Halls began their drive that evening, thankful for the handful of people who had donated to them that day. But that was just the beginning.
Jerry Meekins, a retired Marine who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, clipped the article Sunday morning and shared it with the American Legion Post 14, where he is an executive committee member. He organized a raffle that day and gathered $105 for the Halls, then persuaded the committee to pay the Halls' $854 rent for January.
Meekins said he had to help his comrade in need.
"Well, he's a Marine," Meekins said of Roy Hall. "You know the saying, 'Once a Marine, always a Marine.' That's the code we live by. It's a brotherhood."
When the Halls returned home from Camp Lejeune after spending a day with their son, their answering machine was full of messages and their mailbox was packed with envelopes.
About 25 checks had arrived while they were gone and over the next few days, so did many anonymous cashiers' checks ranging in amounts from $20 to $500. Other people called expressing their desire to help. Meekins was one of them.
On Jan. 15, he and Post 14 invited Roy Hall to their American Legion facility at 1520 Fourth St. N, where they presented him with a check for $1,575. The check included contributions from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 39, American Legion Post 173 of Madeira Beach and the Marine Corps League of Pinellas Park.
Roy and Robin Hall are amazed at the support they have received from complete strangers.
"Tell everyone, from the depth of our family, we really appreciate everything they've done," Roy Hall said. "We couldn't have done without them."
They paid their rent, and shortly afterward they got a call from their son.
Afghanistan was colder than he expected, and he asked his parents to send blankets and socks. He also asked for a Bible.
Using the contributions they had received throughout the week, the Halls began putting together care packages for Logan and his fellow Marines. They bought socks, underwear, blankets, pillows, soap, shaving cream and a box of Bibles, too.
The contributions were "such a blessing," Roy Hall said. "People are so giving. We said we have to do something for all the Marines. We felt compelled, because the outpouring was so much.
"It touched me, because the people helping us made us able to help them."
The greatest gift was being able to see their son before he left.
"It was a little bit of a scary moment — my son is going off to Afghanistan," Hall said. "You could see the emotions on his face. I said to him, if any doubt came in your mind, call on the Lord and everything will be all right."
Tania Karas can be reached at (727) 893-8707 or firstname.lastname@example.org.