Infantrymen from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment concluded a month of community service projects in Jacksonville, N.C., and the surrounding areas Oct. 25 with the 12th Annual Make a Difference Day.
The 1st Battalion warriors began the month by providing their physical strength to clean- up projects for local elderly couples and finished by lending their time and mentoring abilities to children at nearby elementary schools.
Lieutenant Cmdr. Ben J. Brown, the battalion's chaplain, coordinated the projects to help the Marines deal with post-combat stress and help area communities.
The Louisville, Ky., native said it was imperative the Marines look outside of themselves to help deal with the stress. He said transitioning from the high tempo they recently experienced while deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom, to a scheduled training cadence can be difficult.
First, Brown got some information on Make a Difference Day: "The national day of doing good." Then he contacted some local volunteer organizations to see how he could incorporate projects to support the spirit of the designated day.
"Right away there were jobs for our Marines," Brown said. "The company commanders gave us dates they could spare the Marines, and we got started."
The month's early projects included removing debris and overgrown foliage from the yards of local families who could no longer facilitate the clean-ups themselves. The Marines used machetes, weed eaters, chainsaws and even a dump truck provided by the City of Jacksonville to clear the brush from the homes of elderly families.
Toward the month's end, after all the cleaning projects were complete, the infantry warriors focused their efforts toward a younger crowd.
Weapons Company Marines headed to Clyde Erwin Elementary School in nearby Jacksonville, where they participated in the Pledge of Allegiance, classroom academics in addition to the students' physical education, music and art classes. The Marines also conducted beautification projects on the school grounds.
Ten of these Weapons Co. warriors also went to Wilmington, N.C., for a project Brown said finding volunteers for was easy.
"We had no problem finding volunteers when the Marines acted as escorts for the Miss Mundo Latino Pageant 2003," Brown explained. "The event was a success, and they invited us back next year. Unfortunately, the battalion will be on deployment."
On the Oct. 25, the Marines lent their helping hands across the community.
Some replaced flooring and plumbing at a mobile home whose owner is wheelchair bound. Some made repairs at the Boys and Girls Club, and others distributed books, coats and other clothing to needy locals.
Make a Difference Day is nationally recognized and is celebrated on the fourth Saturday in October. National sponsors include Points of Light and the United Way. Local support for this year's event included Partners for Children, the Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity.