MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Six Air Station Marines and a squadron were recognized by Main Street Beaufort, USA for their commitment to the community at the Annual Meeting and Awards for Excellence July 13, at the Arsenal in downtown Beaufort.
Each year members of Main Street Beaufort, USA chose individuals, organizations and businesses to present with design, business and volunteer awards. This year the Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award for Excellence was presented to the Marines from the avionics division of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31and Marine Aircraft Group 31.
The award was presented to the units for their involvement in local events and the downtown community, and accepted by Lt. Col. Blayne Spratlin, the commanding officer of MALS-31, according to Joy Hardy Locke, the executive director of MSB, USA.
“The volunteer of the year award is very special to the Main Street program because it is our chance to recognize our committed and giving volunteers; the people who make this organization work from the inside out,” Hardy Locke said.
In addition to the unit awards, six MALS-31 avionics technicians were singled out for their individual contributions as volunteers. Sergeant Ruben Trujillo, Cpl. Kevin Boody, and Lance Cpls. Adam Hunter, Guy Jerez, Richard Kinmartin and Jared Knight received certificates of appreciation for volunteering at the Taste of Beaufort Festival in May.
For the past several years Marines from various units have answered the call to volunteer, and the Marines from MALS-31were willing to step in and get the job done, according to Rich Seymour, the volunteer coordinator for the Taste of Beaufort Festival.
“These volunteers set up the Friday night venue, manned the key positions and packed up at the end of the evening, finally completing their assignment after midnight,” Seymour said. “Their enthusiasm on the job was confirmed by the positive feedback we received from the public that night.”
The call to volunteer was initially answered by Boody, who is no stranger to volunteering in the Beaufort community. Boody also spends time with Help of Beaufort and Meals on Wheels.
“There was just a general email sent out looking for six people to volunteer,” Boody said. “I called them up and told them not to worry about it. I would get the six people together. ”
The team of volunteers helped set up, close down, and performed wherever they were needed at the event. But their presence at Taste of Beaufort was about more than just manual labor, according to Knight.
“Being out there was about correlation with the community,” Knight said. “It’s good for the community to see (Marines) out there being active, starting good relations and showing that we want to be a part of it.”
Taking the time to participate in local events and volunteering in the community provides a personal sense of accomplishment, and it also alters local people’s perceptions of what Marines are, according to Jerez.
“We already stick out in the community as Marines,” Jerez said. “Instead of attracting negative attention, we may as well go out with a bang and create a positive impression.”
Marines volunteering their off-duty time for civic activities helps them create a sense of citizenship, and reinforces the bond between the military and civilian communities, according to Master Gunnery Sgt. Allen Dedmon, the avionics chief for MALS-31.
“(Volunteering) speaks well of their commitment to the community in which they live,” Dedmon said. “None of these Marines are Lowcountry natives. Their military duties have placed them here, and they recognize that it is better to get involved locally than to move about like a tourist for three or four years.”
Building bridges, sharing in a sense of accomplishment and earning recognition may be incentives to volunteer, but the drive to serve goes deeper than that in the military community, according to Kinmartin.
“It’s really pretty basic,” Kinmartin said. “We’re Marines. It’s just what we do.”