News: Marines, sailors join volunteers to clean bay
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - It took more than a decade to recover. Years of pollution and trash turned Wilson Bay in Jacksonville, N.C., into a stinking, murky shell of its natural beauty.
Only minutes away from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, the water way is now clear. The film of pollution once coating the bay was diligently beaten back by city environmental efforts, non-profit organizations and the working hands of volunteers. It is an ongoing community endeavor that has not escaped the attention of the Marines and sailors working just down the river.
Each year, volunteers from Onslow County high schools sign up to patrol the bay and surrounding area. They team up with Riverworks at Sturgeon City, a non-profit organization dedicated to civic and environmental education, and together they maintain the vigil needed to keep Wilson Bay clear of the refuse that once inundated the water. Thirteen volunteers from nearby Marine Corps installations took the opportunity to serve the local community and joined the students as they cast their canoes into the bay June 21.
“I think it’s a commitment on their part,” said Craig Wagner, president of United Way Onslow County, which joined with Riverworks at Sturgeon City to muster the volunteers needed to clean the bay. “They wanted to be involved with an effort such as this. What they learn in a week is so significant. Some of the teachers and instructors out here saw such engagement from the students. They almost learn more here during this one week than they would in a semester of a regular science class. It’s hands on and a real-life example of environmental restoration and stewardship.”
Wagner, a veteran of previous cleanup efforts, said the students would not be able to clear the bay without the help of adult volunteers like the Marines and sailors. Their supervision allowed the younger volunteers to remain safe and fulfilled the requirements needed to send students into the bay. For the service members, many of them students at training installations such as the School of Infantry – East, it was a chance to escape their daily military environment and experience the community.
Petty Officer 1st Class Rebecca Bryant and Petty Officer 2nd Class Lee Rader, religious program support specialists at the Courthouse Bay and Camp Geiger chapels, actively sought out opportunities for the Marines to serve the community. They saw a chance for civic engagement at Wilson Bay. Through their collaboration with United Way, Marines hit the beaches and waterways not with rifles and tanks, but with canoes and paddles.
“We were looking at ways to get the Marines involved with the community and also help the local community by providing volunteers they can use,” said Bryant. “This opens the door for them to volunteer at their next command, wherever they get stationed. It tells them this is part of us in the military as well. It’s not just about training and doing. There are other opportunities for service available.”
It was a short break from their military routine, but it was a welcome one.
“There is a huge increase in morale,” said Rader. “This is a chance for them to relax and to really do something that gives them meaning. We have a Marine who stood duty yesterday, and she’s doing this on her sleep time. She’s excited and ready to go. Seeing their enjoyment is rewarding for me.”
The atmosphere of volunteerism and sense of community have benefits spreading beyond the bay. Other volunteer efforts saved area non-profit organizations around $117,000 last year, said Wagner. At the same time, the community and military came together to learn and work side by side.
“Regardless of whether you’re in the military or not, you should know what’s happening in the community and also have a sense of pride in such a huge effort like as this, one done through the collaboration of the military and civilians,” said Wagner. “There were various efforts, including the canoeing and mentorship. We had military volunteers help plant some of the marsh grass and be involved with some of the other institutes. They’re all done on a volunteer capacity, so it’s excellent to have the military support for it along with everyone from the community.”
Bryant and Rader said they plan to continue their work with volunteers, fostering spirit of community and service through regular outings bringing the service members under their care into the communities they serve.
For more information on volunteering in Onslow County, visit uwonslow.org or mccslejeune.com/smp.
Date Posted:07.16.2012 16:25
Location:MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJUENE, NC, US
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