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'Tis the Season to Give Back

By Story by Lance Cpl. Sabrina Candiaflores | Marine Corps Air Station Yuma | January 5, 2018

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MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. (Dec. 19, 2017) – The aroma of pine, peppermint, and pinches of cinnamon fill the air. Holiday music hums on the radio; the spirit of giving floats about and the Marines have their own way of contributing as the holidays approach.
 

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --  

U.S. Marine Corps Reservist Maj. Bill Hendricks created the “Toys 4 Tots” program in 1947. Hendricks found inspiration from his wife when she tried to donate an old “Raggedy Ann” doll, but could not find an organization to do so. The Secretary of Defense approved “Toys 4 Tots” as an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve in 1995 with a goal to collect new and unwrapped toys during the months of October, November, and December of each year. They then distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to the less fortunate children in the community.

U.S. Marine Corps Aviation Operations Specialist, and Kalamazoo, Michigan native, Sgt. Nicholas Mihalek, assigned to Marine Fighter Training Squadron (VMFT) 401, found his love for the “Toys 4 Tots” program when he began volunteering in 2009 as a Marine Corps Infantry Reservist and has volunteered ever since.

 

“You get a new appreciation, not just for community support, but for all those that help and for those who really are in need,” Mihalek stated. “What you can do, even though it may not be a lot, really does make a difference to some people.”

This is Mihalek’s second year as the MCAS Yuma “Toys 4 Tots” Coordinator. As the coordinator, his responsibilities include maintaining financial records, ordering and receiving toys, screening and approving toy requests, organizing and attending events, and distributing toys to nonprofit organizations and local families.

 

“It allows me to give back to the community and ensure that every child knows that they are not forgotten and that we do care about them and we want them to be happy,” Mihalek said.

However, Mihalek doesn’t do everything by himself. He receives support and assistance from MCAS Yuma Marines. Mihalek believes the program not only gives Marines the opportunity to volunteer and give back to the community, but also allows them to see the impact they have on the program and the local families in need.

 

“Taking a few hours out of your day to help with the program literally is the world to these families.” Mihalek explained.

Mihalek also receives help from his family. His wife helps him collect toys, go through paper work, and assist with distributing toys. His children help sort toys and load and unload boxes. Mihalek said it keeps them all busy, but it is rewarding. He believes his children have a new appreciation for their own Christmas.

 

“It’s important to ensure that the families who are in need are given the opportunity to have the Christmas they deserve.” Mihalek stated.

Mihalek’s official assistant and the 2018 MCAS Yuma coordinator is U.S. Marine Corps Aviation Operation Specialist, and Rancho Cucamonga, California native, Sgt. Roger Zuleta, assigned to VMFT-401. Zuleta was stationed at Norfolk, Virginia, in 2012 when he first volunteered for “Toys 4 Tots.” Zuleta believes the program has had a big impact on his perspective of the community and also the less fortunate families.

 

“I’ve been able to see how the community can come together and assist in the campaign by donating monetary donations as well as toys.” Said Zuleta.

Zuleta explained that, during the application process, the families are allowed to write remarks if they please. Some families share their stories and why they would appreciate the toys. One of the most touching stories Zuleta read was about a local mother who recently lost her job and discovered her daughter was diagnosed with Leukemia. Zuleta said it had the most impact on him knowing the mother thought she wouldn’t be able to give her daughter a Christmas, but he is happy “Toys 4 Tots” was able to help.

 

“It makes sense not coming from a privileged family; it hits home. Hopefully it never happens but it could be me one day.” Zuleta said. “Just knowing that I could give something back to them because it’s not the children’s fault.”

Zuleta feels this program helps the Marine Corps’ relationship with the community because some people may believe the military’s only purpose is to fight wars, but by collecting and giving toys, it presents a new perspective of the military.

 

“Seeing the gratitude and [the families] just thanking us for our service or giving us hugs, it makes me feel like what we’re doing, serving our country, is worth it.” Said Zuleta as he smiled.

Tamara Vandedrink, an Alameda, California native, is a local recipient of the program. Vandedrink feels that receiving toys from military personnel makes the program that much better.

 

“Just being able to support the Marine Corps and say thank you for their service and for the gifts is just a win-win.” said Vandedrink.

This was Vandedrink’s first time receiving from “Toys 4 Tots” and she explained how grateful she was since she recently lost her husband and she didn’t know how she was going to give her grandkids a Christmas.

 

Vandedrink’s eyes filled with tears as she said, “I actually got it for my two grandchildren and when we opened the bag, there was so many things, it was really great!”

Vandedrink expressed gratitude and appreciation when she described how the Marine Corps not only helps keep peace and freedom in America, but also gives back to the communities of the nation that supports them.

 

“These people stand at the stores, they collect the toys, they’re respectful, they’re a cut above the average person, and then for them to turn around and give and serve the country, it doesn’t need to be forgotten,” stated Vandedrink. “I think the military needs to be brought to the forefront and they need to be thanked as well.”


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MCAS Yuma News (DVIDS)

Home On the Range – MCAS Yuma Marines Pistol Qual [Image 2 of 2]

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

Marines stationed out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., engage during firearms training and qualification at the station pistol range, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reba James)
Home On the Range – MCAS Yuma Marines Pistol Qual [Image 2 of 2]

Home On the Range – MCAS Yuma Marines Pistol Qual [Image 1 of 2]

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

Marines stationed out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., engage in firearms training and qualification at the station pistol range, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reba James)
Home On the Range – MCAS Yuma Marines Pistol Qual [Image 1 of 2]

MCAS Yuma Tax Center Opens for Business

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

Marine Corps Air Station Yuma Commanding Officer, Col. Ricardo Martinez, alongside the legal center Marines, cuts the ribbon in honor of the official opening of the station tax center aboard MCAS Yuma, Ariz., Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016.
MCAS Yuma Tax Center Opens for Business

MCAS Yuma K-9 Unit Sinks Teeth Into Training [Image 1 of 3]

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. – Sgt. Andrew Kowtko, a military policeman with the Provost Marshal Office, simulates an aggressor during training with military working dog, Kubu, at the K-9 compound aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reba James)
MCAS Yuma K-9 Unit Sinks Teeth Into Training [Image 1 of 3]

MCAS Yuma K-9 Unit Sinks Teeth Into Training [Image 2 of 3]

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. – Kubu, a military working dog with the Provost Marshal Office, bites into the arm of a simulated aggressor during training at the K-9 compound aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reba James)
MCAS Yuma K-9 Unit Sinks Teeth Into Training [Image 2 of 3]

MCAS Yuma K-9 Unit Sinks Teeth Into Training [Image 3 of 3]

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. – Cpl. Daryn Cherry, a military policeman with the Provost Marshal Office, reels in military working dog, Bandi, during simulated aggressor training at the K-9 training compound aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reba James)
MCAS Yuma K-9 Unit Sinks Teeth Into Training [Image 3 of 3]

MWSS-371 Suits up to Fight Dirty [Image 4 of 4]

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

Pfc. Jarett Houk, a motor transport mechanic with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 and a native of Virginia Beach, Va., gears up to begin Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) decontamination and reconnaissance training aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Jan. 13, 2016.
MWSS-371 Suits up to Fight Dirty [Image 4 of 4]

MWSS-371 Suits up to Fight Dirty [Image 3 of 4]

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 don Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) suits and gas masks during Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) decontamination and reconnaissance training aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Jan. 13, 2016.
MWSS-371 Suits up to Fight Dirty [Image 3 of 4]

MWSS-371 Suits up to Fight Dirty [Image 2 of 4]

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 don Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) suits and gas masks during Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) decontamination and reconnaissance training aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Jan. 13, 2016.
MWSS-371 Suits up to Fight Dirty [Image 2 of 4]

MWSS-371 Suits up to Fight Dirty [Image 1 of 4]

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 don Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) suits and gas masks during Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) decontamination and reconnaissance training aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Jan. 13, 2016.
MWSS-371 Suits up to Fight Dirty [Image 1 of 4]

MCAS Yuma's EOD Team Conducts Counter-IED Training

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, based out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, conduct counter-IED training at the Berry M. Goldwater Range Tuesday, December 8, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps video by Lance Cpl. Brendan King)
MCAS Yuma's EOD Team Conducts Counter-IED Training

MCAS Yuma Celebrates 240th Marine Corps Birthday

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

Service members, families, veterans and Department of Defense employees gathered at the station parade field to celebrate the Marine Corps’ 240th birthday as part of the annual uniform pageant and cake-cutting ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Friday.
MCAS Yuma Celebrates 240th Marine Corps Birthday [Image 2 of 2]

WTI Marines Conduct NEO Exercise at Kiwanis Park

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

Marines participating in Weapons and Tactics Instructor course 1-16 converged on Kiwanis Park in Yuma, Arizona, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, to take part in a non-combatant evacuation (NEO) exercise.
WTI Marines Conduct NEO Exercise at Kiwanis Park [Image 1 of 2]

Urban Close Air Suport

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

U.S. Marines participating in Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) Course 1-16 provide urban close air support during an offensive air support exercise at Yodaville, in Yuma, Ariz., on Oct. 2, 2015. WTI is a seven week event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1). MAWTS-1 provides standardized tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine aviation training and readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics. (U.S. Marine Corps video by Lance Cpl. Jeremy L. Laboy/Released)
Urban Close Air Suport

External Lift

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

U.S. Marines with 1st Transport Support Battalion, 1st Combat Logistics Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group conduct an external lift during Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) Course 1-16 at Auxiliary Airfield 2 in Yuma, Ariz., on Oct. 2, 2015. WTI is a seven week event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1). MAWTS-1 provides standardized tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine aviation training and readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics. (U.S. Marine Corps video by Lance Cpl. Jeremy L. Laboy/Released)
External Lift

AGS ADR Practical Application

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

U.S. Marines with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1 (MAWTS-1) conduct an airfield damage repair practical application at Canon Air Defense (P111) in Yuma, Ariz., on Sept. 26, 2015. This practical application was a part of a seven week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of the Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine aviation training and readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics. (U.S. Marine Corps video by Lance Cpl. Jeremy L. Laboy).
AGS ADR Practical Application

AGS Aircraft Salvage Practical Application

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

U.S. Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 (MWSS-374) conduct an aircraft salvage practical application on a UH-1Y Venom at Yuma Proving Grounds, Yuma, Ariz., on Sept. 30, 2015. This practical application was a part of a Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) Course 1-16, a seven week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of the Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine aviation training and readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics. (U.S. Marine Corps video by Lance Cpl. Jeremy L. Laboy).
AGS Aircraft Salvage Practical Application

For Today’s Military Child: 'LINKS for Teachers' In the Classroom

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

In an effort to better understand today’s military child in the classroom, local schools have welcomed Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s “LINKS (Lifestyles, Insights, Network, Knowledge & Skills) for Teachers,” program into their internal curriculum.
For Today’s Military Child: 'LINKS for Teachers' In the Classroom [Image 1 of 3]

Comic-Con 2015: Highlight Reel

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

This is what the MCAS Yuma Marine and sailor volunteers got to see at San Diego Comic-Con International, July 9-12th.
Comic-Con 2015: Highlight Reel

Comic-Con 2015: Getting in Line

22 Jan 2016 10:18:42 Z

Marines and sailors traveled over one hundred and seventy miles form Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, to volunteer at the San Diego Comic-Con International in San Diego, California, July 9th through the 12th. See how these volunteers help keep on of the world's largest comic conventions running smoothly.
Comic-Con 2015: Getting in Line

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