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Troop Bebop holds rally to raise items for soldiers overseas

Staff Photo: Heather Darenberg. Thomas McAfee, left, who is in the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program, prepares to collect donations from people driving past the Mall of Georgia while Jonathan Williams holds an American flag during a rally Saturday to raise money for Troop Bebop USA, a nonprofit organization.

Staff Photo: Heather Darenberg. Thomas McAfee, left, who is in the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program, prepares to collect donations from people driving past the Mall of Georgia while Jonathan Williams holds an American flag during a rally Saturday to raise money for Troop Bebop USA, a nonprofit organization.

BUFORD -- Thomas McAfee was glad to hear horns honking as vehicles drove past the Mall of Georgia on Saturday.

"It motivates me," the Central Gwinnett High School senior said. "It reassures me that I'm doing something good."

McAfee, who is in the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program, was one of more than a dozen volunteers who participated in a rally Saturday in support of U.S. troops. Flags and a sign stating "Honk if you support our troops" lined the street in front of Guven Fine Jewelry at the intersection of Buford Drive and Mall of Georgia Boulevard.

During the rally, the volunteers collected donations for Troop Bebop USA, a nonprofit organization based in Gwinnett County.

"When our community comes together for our military and our troops, it doesn't get any better than that," said Barbara "Bebop" Swenson, the founder of Troop Bebop USA. "This is what it's about. This is America."

Swenson said her organization will use 100 percent of the donations to purchase prepaid phone cards, postage and care packages for troops who are deployed overseas.

Staff Sgt. John Dailey, a Marine recruiter, said he knows the troops will appreciate the help in connecting with their family back home. Dailey was stationed in Japan for five years and served a humanitarian mission in the Philippines to help with tsunami relief before serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"Any way to help out the military is great," said Dailey, who graduated from Shiloh High School. "I really like it for all the kids that have joined (through the Delayed Entry Program) to see people supporting them."

Phoenix High School graduate Devin Morgan, who is also in the Delayed Entry Program, said he appreciated the support shown by the passers-by.

"I think we're doing a good thing out here," he said.

In addition to Marine recruiters from the Buford recruiting substation and members of the Delayed Entry Program, Cathy Hill and Dianne Verplaetse of the Buford Lanier Women's Club volunteered at the rally.

For more information about Troop Bebop USA, visit www.troopbebopusa.com.