MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, ARIZ. --
Marines from Marine Attack Squadron 211, Marine Aircraft Group 13, Third Marine Aircraft Wing, based out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., were recognized by their adopted George Washington Carver Elementary school for their continued effort, volunteer work, and overall mentorship at the schoolhouse courtyard, May 3.
“Wearing the uniform proudly lets the community know we care,” said VMA-211 Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Troy Pehrson. “It lets the children of George Washington Carver elementary know that we are going to be there for them and that being a Marine 24/7 is more than just a slogan to the Marines of VMA-211 – It is how we do business.”
Their contribution was recognized before a crowd of students, staff members and parents at an end of the school year event celebrating Cinco De Mayo. Four Marines, representing the squadron, took part in the pledge of allegiance, the national anthem and the entire day's festivities with the children they've been tutoring since the formal adoption took place in January of this year.
"Our school was fortunate enough to be adopted by the Wake Island Avengers. They've been coming to our school every Friday," said Deb Drysdale, Carver Elementary school principal and a native of Yuma, Ariz. "It gives our school a kind of link to the Marine Corps base. We don't have a lot of families that have an association with the military, but our students are drawn to men and women in uniform and respect them very much."
For the past five months, VMA-211 Marines have been taking a first-hand approach to the children of Carver elementary. Sitting with the students on a weekly basis and going over their academics, primarily their math studies, has been a large part of the program. Providing guidance, advice, and a solid role model in the uniform of the day has made indelible impressions on the young kids that was readily apparent at the heritage festival.
"I've actually been here several weeks, gotten to know the kids and teachers. It's wonderful to get here and have them be so excited to see you, every single time," said Cpl. Lusetta Elise Lopez, a VMA-211 corrosion control specialist and a native of Spokane, Wash. "We help them out, mostly with their math. They bring in their little booklets, we work through problems, and make sure their homework's right. We also get the opportunity to go outside during recess and play around, interact with them."
In a learning environment, the Marines take the role of teachers and role models. Going over math, taking care of the kids and all the while making sure to represent MCAS Yuma to the utmost is what the Avengers have been doing with their adopted little admirers.
"I usually send a group of four or five kids over. The Marines help my students with math or re-teaching a concept that I know has been hard for my students and they just need a little more practice - The kids just love to see the Marines on Friday, they'll raise their hand to be the one's picked to go with the Marines, whether they need help on the concept or not," said Andrea Sinks, a Carver elementary 3rd grade school teacher and a native of Dayton, Ohio. "It's been amazing this year and I really appreciate it a lot."
The day saw the Marines take part in the opening pledge of allegiance and national anthem honoring our country. Shortly thereafter, it was time for them to be honored by the spectators in attendance with a round of applause and a chorus of gratitude.
From there, the kids took the stage with Mexican heritage floral dresses, music and traditional dances. The performances had been worked on by the children for some time in advance, with every piece consisting of colorful costumes and spot on choreography.
"It was a great time, just awesome. Marines got to interact with the kids, they got recognized and exposed to a lot of the cultural dances - It was a blast," said Brian Pennington, the new VMA-211 family readiness officer and a native of Grandbury, Texas. "The kids treat the Marines like rock stars. It's interesting to see a Marine standing there and a young kid run up to them and say, 'Hey, I want to be like you!' and see the Marine smiling."
Makeshift eggs with confetti and stringers were thrown about by the kids; square dancing, gangnam style and an electric slide class broke out toward lunch hour; even an impromptu tricycle drag race between the Marines and first graders kept the atmosphere in an up-tempo mood for the entire day.
"They like to have foot races with us, like to see if they can beat us," said LCpl. Gorge Flores Jr., a VMA-211 egress mechanic and a native of Hamilton, Ohio. "They've come pretty close, they're pretty fast and give you a good run for your money; but these kids, they’re a lot of fun to work with."
Investing a little time in the next generation and making an impact in the lives of those who will come after us is a worthwhile endeavor that the Avengers can be proud contributors of. Having 10-year-old Matthew Martinez, a 4th grader at Carver elementary who purposely performed poorly in math to spend time with VMA-211 Marines, tug on your trouser leg to simply say, "Mr. Marine - I want to be like you when I turn 18," is a reminder of what this type of work means to our country's youngest eyes.