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Kew Gdns. Hills sends money, support to Marines in Iraq

Though appreciative of the wrapped Tupperware labeled chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin , he and the rest of his platoon stationed in Iraq have asked that if his family and friends back in Queens want to send them any post-holiday gifts, sentimental or practical beat sugar any day."What they want now are things from home like letters," said Maher's father, Thomas, who lives in Kew Gardens Hills where his son grew up.So cards it was, sent by students stretching from his daughter's third grade class in Stoneybrook to those in elementary schools in Arizona.As for practical, a fund-raiser in Kew Gardens Hills organized by Thomas Maher on Dec. 21 produced $1,500 in gift cards, 20 pairs of ballistic sun goggles and a load of winter-weight T-shirts intended to keep a soldier's skin dry.About 50 people donated that day at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, which Maher said "was a surprise to me - since the transit strike was on."But according to the 66-year-old, his son's team needs all the support a community can muster.As part of the 48th National Guard Brigade Combat Team, Vincent has the treacherous job of providing security for convoys traveling north from Adder, a small town near Tallil, to Baghdad - a route that the 17-year military veteran on his second tour in Iraq described on his Web site as "Without a doubt the most dangerous road in the world."His father, himself a Vietnam veteran, put the twice-a-week mission another way: "You think the Long Island Expressway is crazy? Imagine driving blind in the night with people shooting at you from all directions."As of Jan. 3 2,179 Americans have died in the Iraq conflict.Maher, 34, a New York City police officer for 12 years and father of four, was moved to convoy security after the POW camps his team was protecting in southern Iraq were emptied. His arrival in June marked Maher's second trip to Iraq, following the first with the 42nd Infantry Division stationed in the now-stabilized area of Tikrit."He brought a lot of expertise with him," said Thomas Maher, now the chaplain of the American Legion Hillcrest Post 1078.Along with his NYPD service, Vincent has worn the hats of a nuclear, biological and chemical specialist; a military police officer; and an electrician - a trade he learned working for ConEd after graduating from Thomas A. Edison Vocational Tech High in Flushing.Thomas Maher said his son has no qualms about his duties overseas."I don't think he'd be there if he didn't believe in what's going on."And although dangerous, the situation in Iraq has improved, he said."Things are a lot better than two years ago. Baghdad's a functioning city again."He gave as evidence his son's account of being able to buy a camera and microphones for his computer at a store that recently reopened in the country's capital.Still, the father conceded: "I'd rather he was here chasing DWIs up and down the expressway."Check donations can be sent to Thomas Maher at 79-25 150th St., Apt. C-9, Flushing, NY 11367.Reach reporter Zach Patberg at news@timesledger.com or at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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