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Jim and Lee Ann Provencher hold a photo of their son, Marine Lance Cpl. James Provencher Jr., and a tied blanket. The Provenchers are leading an effort to send 280 blankets to their son's Marine squad in the 3rd Marine Air Wing. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader))

Warm thoughts, blankets headed to Marines overseas

MANCHESTER -- Members of the 3rd Marine Air Wing Division stationed at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, including Lance Cpl. James Provencher Jr. of Manchester, will be a little cozier this winter thanks to the efforts of Provencher's parents.

Jim and Lee Ann Provencher, with the help of many friends and family, have crafted more than 100 no-sew blankets they will ship to their son's unit.

Lee Ann said she came up with the idea after her son asked her for a blanket. She said she can't sew, and decided instead to make a no-sew blanket, which entails fringing the ends of two blanket-sized pieces of material and tying the fringes together to form one blanket.

She then thought the entire unit might like them. She hopes to ship them out later this month to arrive at Camp Bastion, which is a British base supplemented by U.S. Marines in Helmar Province in Afghanistan, in time for the Nov. 10 Marine Corps birthday.

But shh. Don't tell anyone.

'It will be a surprise. They don't know about it,' she said.

The local effort yielded about 120 rolled-up blankets that cover a wall in the couple's home. But Marine Corps mothers from across the country have chipped in as well and should result in the 280 blankets needed to give each member of her son's unit one blanket, she said.

Her husband said he made one blanket, but focused his efforts on such things as trying to raise the 'thousands' of dollars needed to ship the nearly 300 blankets to Afghanistan.

'I'm more behind-the-scenes,' said Jim, who served four years in the Marines.

Their son's deployment has been anything but easy. The latest scary moment was Sept. 14, when the Taliban attacked Camp Bastion, killing two Marines.

'We saw it on the news,' he said. 'It was a long night.'

They got a call at 3:30 a.m. the next day.

'He was able to call us. Still, the phone ringing at 3:30 in the morning was scary,' Jim said.

The Provenchers recently hosted a party to thank New Hampshire residents who made blankets.

'I wanted to do something nice for him and the troops over there, to let them know we're thinking of them,' said Linda Lee of Manchester, who is James Provencher Jr.'s aunt.

'It's a mom thing,' said Linda Whitmore of Manchester, who is a friend of Lee Ann. 'Our boys all played baseball together.'

Lee Ann said she was overwhelmed by the number of people who came forward to donate a blanket.

Speaking to Robin Frisella of Manchester, who Lee Ann met at that party, she said: 'It's so heartwarming that people I don't know, like you, are supporting this cause.'

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