News: Our community: 2nd MLG Marines make time to give back
Story by Cpl. Paul Peterson
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Service members are a crucial facet of the community in Jacksonville, N.C. With the largest Marine Corps installation on the East Coast sitting right outside the city’s center, the Marine presence helps define the community’s atmosphere, which in turn shapes the day-to-day lives of the Marines who serve here.
Jacksonville is home to their children’s schools and shopping centers. They follow its local ordinances, vote in its voting centers, and visit with friends in local restaurants. For many young Marine families, it is also the site of their first home.
It’s an easily overlooked reality for the men and women on base, whose long working hours absorb much of their attention. In that spirit, 30 Marines with General Support Maintenance Company, 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group decided to take time out of their day March 15 and give back to the people who support them.
“I have long envisioned a day like this to help out our community and build camaraderie amongst the Marines in this company,” said 1st Lt. Joseph Strumolo, the company’s commanding officer, in a letter of instruction addressed to his Marines. “I want the Marines to volunteer because they want to make a difference ... I want Marines to give back to the community on their own time.”
Company representatives reached out to four area sites to facilitate volunteer opportunities for the Marines. The 30 service members broke into sections and spent their weekend volunteering at a science fair, the local zoo, a disabled veterans center and the nearby Civil War landmark at Fort Fisher, N.C.
By 9 a.m. that Saturday, children started shuffling in to the Jacksonville Commons Recreation Center, where the Marines joined with other volunteers to help run a local science fair.
“We each had different stations to do,” said Lance Cpl. Travis Brunson of Dothan, Ala. “I’ve done [this kind of thing] before and just liked it. I worked at an elementary school before, and it’s pretty cool to work with the little kids.”
Brunson and his peers conducted simple science experiments and answered questions as guests moved around the room to learn about volcanos, magnets, and how static electricity works.
“I enjoyed it,” said Brunson, who ran a station about the freezing temperature of ocean water. “Every time the opportunity arises I’ll do it. It’s an opportunity to get out of the house.”
While Brunson and his team worked the fair, two other groups embarked on cleanup projects at the Lynwood Park Zoo and the Fort Fisher battlefield, where more physical labor awaited.
On the eve of hurricane and fire season in North Carolina, the service members dug out drainage trenches and cleared away excessive brush into the afternoon.
“All my friends were coming out,” said Lance Cpl. Lucas Beverly, a Centerville, Va., native, who volunteered to help at the Lynwood Park Zoo. “They came out to help, and I’m happy I did too. I wouldn’t have thought much about it, but it’s been a great time. I’ll probably be coming back out here a lot more often.”
For most of the day, the two teams completed manual labor and maintenance tasks that often escape the time of the sites’ staff members. Some Marines even took the opportunity to help feed and show the animals to visitors at the zoo.
“That’s really what you want, you want that connection,” said Gary Evans, the director at the Lynwood Park Zoo. “When somebody’s laughing and having a good time, you know you’re doing the right thing … It’s the hours these Marines put in, it’s done wonders.”
Evans said he regularly receives phone calls asking for volunteer opportunities from area units. The heavy Marine presence means not only volunteers for the park, but also young families looking for a chance to get their children outdoors and into a more natural environment.
“If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be here,” said Evans. “We’re really a Marine Corps family around here.”
Though GSM Company offered no time off or particular reward for those that volunteered, several of the participants said the projects helped them learn more about their community, and they will be searching for more opportunities to volunteer in the future.