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Kelly Zajac, center, whose boyfriend, Marine Cpl. Aaron Allen died in Iraq on Nov. 14, and Santa Barbara Bank & Trust colleagues, from left, Barbara Huyck, Rhonda Romero, Karan Duquette, Eveline Clark (obscured), Zachary Basler and Marian Russell express their heartfelt appreciation while packing stockings to soldiers overseas. (Santa Barbara Bank & Trust photo)

Honor. Commitment. Service. These are a few of the important attributes used to describe America’s military personnel — the men and women who sacrifice so much, near and far, to protect and defend our many freedoms.

U.S. Marine Cpl. Aaron Allen was one of these special people, until he was killed in Iraq on Nov. 14 while serving his second tour of duty — a tour due to end this month.

Since early October, Allen’s girlfriend, Kelly Zajac, and her Santa Barbara Bank & Trust colleagues had been supporting his military unit by sending essential items and inspirational cards.

“The military response was so positive that we launched plans to stuff stockings to send holiday cheer across the world,” said Zach Basler, a real estate assistant and the project’s coordinator.

The group moved full speed ahead to send the stockings to his best friend in the same unit. Supplies such as socks, candy and granola bars were donated or purchased. A local Cub Scout troop and Santa Barbara Middle School leadership students provided holiday cards with appreciative messages and greetings.

An informal and spirited assembly line during lunch on Wednesday packed 70 stockings. Included in each one was a photo of “Zajac & Co.” — those who made it happen honoring local hero Allen, for his love and friendship and his commitment and service to his country.

Allen’s memory shines bright, near and far, during this holiday season.

Randy Weiss is a community relations officer for Santa Barbara Bank & Trust.