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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joel Soriano, a strategic communication specialist assigned to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma’s Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron, lifts rubble from a torn-down shed at St. Thomas Yuma Indian Mission in Winterhaven, Calif., Feb. 3, 2018. The mission, located out in the local Yuma community, requested help in tearing down the shed so that renovations could be made to the building. (U.S. Marine Corps photo taken by Cpl. Isaac Martinez)

Photo by Cpl. Isaac D. Martinez

Offering a Helping Hand

8 Feb 2018 | Cpl. Isaac D. Martinez Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. (Jan. 5, 2017) – The Saturday sun shines brilliantly on St. Thomas Yuma Indian Mission in Winterhaven, Calif., Feb. 3, 2018. It’s the weekend – but three United States Marines prepare to don their gloves, pick up their sledgehammers and get ready for some physical labor. “Whack. Whack. Whack.” The first few blows from the sledgehammer simply knock through the drywall.


“Crack!” The first wall stud splinters and breaks apart after its bout with the iron-forged hammer. After a few more swings, the entire wall collapses into a pile of rubble beside the church. The iron-willed Marines cheer briefly, then continue swinging away until the small shed is no more.


As part of their renovation project, St. Thomas Yuma Indian Mission needed  a shed torn down so it could be replaced with a new hallway and restrooms. Currently all of the mission’s restrooms are located on one side of the building.


It isn’t rare that Marines are seen volunteering their off-duty time to help the local community, it’s part of what makes them wear their eagle, globe, and anchors so proudly.


Reverend Thomas Dekaa, a Nigeria native and the mission’s father, has been in his position for less than a year but even he knew that the time had come for renovations to be made to the old and historic building.
“When I first started looking for volunteers that could come out and help, I wasn’t very successful because most of the people that attend the services here are elderly and unable to do the labor that we needed done,” said Dekaa. “But when I came out and saw the Marines working, male and female, with their energy and youth it was quite impressive.”


The mission, dedicated in 1923, replicates the Mission Puerto de Purisima Concepcion, which was first constructed in 1780 but was destroyed the following year during a raid by Quechan Indians, upset with their treatment from the Spanish colonists.  The site is California Registered Historic Landmark #350.


Today, the mission provides over 50 members with a sanctuary in which they can practice their Catholic religion.


Jim Larocca, an attendee of the mission and material handler assigned to the Distribution Management Office (DMO), knew that young bodies were needed to tear down the shed and move the rubble. Faced with the problem, he asked Marine Lance Cpl. Adriana Adorno, a distribution management specialist and the receiving noncommissioned officer for DMO, who didn’t hesitate to offer the help of herself as well as a few friends.


“Honestly I was doing it just to get out of the barracks that weekend, I didn’t have any plans for the Saturday so I said ‘yes’ and thought nothing else of it,” Adorno said. “While doing the work I still thought nothing of it, other than we were tearing down a shed and cleaning up the mess. But afterwards, when they were thanking us, I felt humbled to receive that type of gratitude.”


Without the Marines’ help, the shed would still be standing and the renovation process would be completely halted until it fell, said Dekaa.


“I am really grateful to the Marine Corps for rendering that service to our church, we appreciate and we thank the Marines for coming out and helping our community, Dekaa said. “I want to say thank you, and may God continue to bless the work you all do, not only in defending our nation but in helping build the nearby communities as well.”

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