Aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., a squadron adopting a local school or highway is a commonplace occurrence, since volunteer service is a direct reflection of the ideals of the Marine Corps.
So, a local community of retirees turned the tables on this routine story, and took it upon themselves to adopt Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13, based out of MCAS Yuma, as their own.
Coyote Ranch, a gated community for elderly who retired in the town of Yuma, adopted the MALS-13 Marines more than 6 years ago, and the partnership is still going strong.
“We started working with the Marines around 6 years ago because we wanted to do something to show our appreciation,” said Peggy Munger, the Coyote Ranch troop committee coordinator and a native of Yuma, Ariz. “Really it started out as just looking for some troops to send some care packages to.”
Little did the Marines, or their new support group, realize that it was going to turn into a long-term relationship between the two.
“At first there was just packages sent, they would send a list of things they wanted and put it all together and send it back,” said Debi Mustain, the Coyote Ranch assistant troop committee coordinator and a native of Yuma. “Now we bake cookies for the Marines here, make dinner for them and invite them over all the time.”
Being the exemplary role model Marines are, MALS-13 made sure to show their appreciation and thus an evolving friendship grew between the squadron and Coyote Ranch.
“I have been over there multiple times (Coyote Ranch) helping out with putting up lights, moving furniture or whatever they ask,” said Lance Cpl. Cortez Jesus, a MALS-13 calibration specialist and a native of Bakersfield, Calif. “They are kind of like the cheerleaders of our squadron, trying to boost morale any way possible.”
Physical labor is only a small part of the way the Marines reciprocate for the continued support, the residents of Coyote Ranch are constantly invited to important events such as homecomings, the Marine Corps ball or MALS-13 gatherings, the most recent one being a MALS-13 family day event, May 18.
“All the members of our troop committee feel as if the MALS-13 Marines have invited us into their family, becoming a part of something bigger,” said Peggy in reference to the MALS-13 family day outing.
During the family day, the Coyote Ranch residents had the opportunity to meet some of the Marines directly affected by the care packages sent during a recent deployment to Afghanistan.
“I was the liaison between the Marines and Coyote Ranch during the deployment,” said Capt. Jason Wood, the MALS-13 Assistant Aviation Supply Officer and a native of Burleson, Texas. “It was great. We would send them a list of things that we could not get here and help keep moral high and most of the time we would get care packages in turn.”
Wood saw what these small tokens of appreciation did for his Marines so far from home.
“Not everyone there received things from family and friends but when those packages from Coyote Ranch came in there was items for everyone,” said Wood. “It reminded those Marines that there were people stateside who cared for them.”
After the most recent wave of Marines returned to Yuma from that deployment, many of them paid respect to what this retirement community did for them.
“Still to this day I am invited out to eat dinner with Peggy or go out and play bingo with the folks from Coyote Ranch,” said Wood.
This long-term relationship is not just merely a simple community service being done, but something more than that, these Yuma residents have become the extended family for this squadron of Marines.