May 31, 2012

A call to serve, whether overseas or in community

Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison
Desert Warrior Staff
Photo by Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison
Lance Cpl.Zachary Sheehy, a Marine Attack Squadron 214 avionics technician and a native of Levittown, N.Y., high fives a student at C.W. McGraw Elementary School in Yuma, Ariz., May 23. Sheehy is among the hundreds of Marines and Sailors at MCAS Yuma who volunteer during the year to give back to the local community.

Conscription hasn’t been used to increase the United States Armed Forces since 1973, at the end of the Vietnam War. Today, the members of each military branch are comprised solely of volunteers.

As if serving their country for years at a time wasn’t enough, some Marines and Sailors at MCAS Yuma volunteer their free hours to helping those in need out in the local community.

On a weekly basis, Marines and Sailors go out in town to spend their time with local residents. This can include helping out at the food bank, picking up trash around the city or assisting in elementary school programs. Usual volunteer hot spots include the Humane Society of Yuma, Helping Hands organization and the Yuma Habitat for Humanity.

Whether in groups or as individuals, station volunteers are relied upon by Yuma to help out with the community in many forms.

Marine Attack Squadron 214, for example, adopted C.W. McGraw Elementary.

“There’s a huge need in schools for volunteers,” said Christy White, a teacher at McGraw. “If the Marines can fulfill that need, that’s great. The students really need to see adults in action doing community outreach, especially in this particular area.”

White noted that while McGraw sometimes sees retired teachers volunteering with the school, “the Marines are really the only volunteers I have seen from other entities.”

Community outreach is one of the driving factors with VMA-214 and McGraw.

“The benefit to the both the Air Station and the Yuma community is we have the opportunity to strengthen our ties as a team,” said Sgt. Maj. Leonard Maldonado, VMA-214’s sergeant major. “One of the greatest benefits to being stationed in Yuma is the relationship we enjoy with the local community.  Why not demonstrate our appreciation by giving back?”

Other volunteer opportunities exist beyond command adopt a school initiatives. A good portion of station volunteerism is done through the Single Marine Program.

“Most of our Marines do it to fill a philanthropic need,” said Jude Crouch, the SMP coordinator. “Volunteering fulfills a lot of folks’ need for that.”

Just as people enlist for numerous reasons, so, too, do people volunteer. Whether it’s something new to do, altruism, material awards or emotional rewards, all these reasons are valid and the end result is a happier, healthier community.

From passing out food and blankets to the homeless to teaching kids how to read, every little bit helps Yuma and furthers the commitment to domestic improvement, something which isn’t always emphasized by members of the Armed Forces.

“I feel that dedicating time to volunteering events within the local communities promotes an image of the Marine Corps that shows dedication and commitment to not only providing a service to the military, but the community where we are located,” said Cpl. Maxmillion Page, the Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron Legal and Awards noncommissioned officer in charge and a native of Thousand Oaks, Calif.

To volunteer one’s free time, a precious commodity at the busiest air station in the Marine Corps, takes dedication, but there are still those that rise to the challenge.

In 2011, Cpl. Shawn Rose, a former VMA-513 avionics technician who’s currently going through Marine Security Guard school, managed to rack up 111 volunteer hours despite deploying to Afghanistan for six months.

“I enjoy volunteering because it helps build altruism and assists the local community as well as the Marine community,” said Rose, a Native of Freeport, N.Y., by way of San Ann, Jamaica.

It’s easy to take the work for granted, but it resonates in wherever the Marines go.

“We get about 10 Marines every time they come twice a month,” said Elizabeth O’Rourke, customer service and program specialist at the Yuma Food Bank. “We have some Marines that come in and volunteer individually on their own.”

The Food Bank hosts approximately 70 volunteers a month. O’Rourke says the Marines who volunteer “help out a lot.”

“We have a great relationship,” she added. “We’re trying to continue to build it even further.”

O’Rourke, whose husband is a Marine in VMA-211, also helped organize a spouse volunteer opportunity, which she says they are going to try to continue doing once a month.

Spouse or service member, anyone can volunteer and can organize a date to volunteer. For assistance in this, contact the MCAS Joint Public Affairs Office at (928)-269-2275. This includes community tours, color guards and requests for military guest speakers.

Some of the volunteer hotspots in Yuma include:

—  Greater Foothills Helping Hands at (928) 305-9974 or www.helpinghandsyuma.org

—  Humane Society of Yuma– (928) 782-1621 or www.hsoyuma.com

—  Yuma Community Food Bank– (928) 343-1243 or www.yumafoodbank.org/home.html

—  Crossroads Mission– (928) 329-1021 or www.crossroadsmission.org

Websites such as www.volunteermatch.org also offer a bevy of opportunities for heavier forms of volunteerism, such as hosting exchange students or adopting children.

Marines can also contact Crouch at (928)-269-6556 or Elena McShane, the station’s School Liaison, at (928) 269-5373, for more volunteer opportunities.

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