Marines take locals to prom; May I have this dance?

17 May 2002 | Lance Cpl. Lane Miley

The prom only comes once a year. There's always a buzz of excitement. People get their hair done in anticipation of a night they hope to remember forever. They parade through and have their pictures taken with their dates. Then it's on to the dance floor.Marine students from the Personal Administration Course at Camp Johnson attended the 10th annual "American Prom" May 17 as part of "National Nursing Home Week" at Britthaven of Onslow, a retirement community here. "The residents just love it," said Ann Starr, Britthaven's administrator. "We've had special events all week, there were singers and dancers and an intergenerational day, where a group of children came out and visited with the residents; but this is the big one." She said the prom takes place every May, and the residents seem to love it. She said like their younger generations they start getting ready early - getting their hair and nails done. About 60 residents attended this year's event. According to Starr, local businesses were a big help. She said with local donations through the years the residents now all have a suit or dress to wear. One local business dry-cleaned everyone's attire, and another provided corsages."I'm glad to see the 'Corps' out here supporting such a good event," said John P. Suratt, a Vietnam veteran visiting resident V.T. Lewis. "They have their hands full training and all, but they came out here for such a good cause." Charlie E. Joyner, assistant principal at Hunter's Creek Middle School, said he now understands how complex the Corps is. "It really shows how multidimensional the military is," said Joyner, whose mother, Josephine Wood, was this year's prom queen. "This event compliments the human resources the Marines have."Bill D. Ansley, who served in the Coast Guard, said he enjoyed the prom "very much so" and it was nice of the Marines to share their time with them."It's fine; everything's fine!" said Samuel Brown, a Britthaven resident. His date, Pfc. Demetrice D. Brown, said he snuck a kiss from her while they were dancing. "He was a cool date and we had lots of fun!" the young Marine said. The feeling for most of the residents was how nice the event was and how glad they were to have the young Marines there. For some it was an emotional time as well.Retired Chief Petty Officer Jesse C. Sandlin, who attended the prom in his dress uniform, was saluted for his service by many of the Marines there. His wife Marion explained Sandlin's situation. "He had a stroke and can't speak or use his right arm any longer, but he saluted the Marines back with his left hand. It was very emotional for him seeing the Marines in their uniforms," she said. "He served the Navy for 21 years. He did one tour in Vietnam where he ran a riverboat and then volunteered for a second tour where he trained other sailors."The prom is a really good experience for the residents, Starr said. Many of them haven't attended a prom before. She explained many of them didn't have the money to go when they were in school.Starr said it was also a chance for the Marines to give back to the community they live in."Last week our instructors asked us who would like to attend the prom and we were so motivated that everybody raised their hands," Pfc. James Brown said with a smile. Brown said the students were all so motivated their instructors had to choose who would attend. "I'm glad I was chosen; this is pretty cool," he said. "We've been having a great time; dancing and having a little punch. It's quite rewarding to put a smile on these people's faces."