Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA --
It has been said one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone is your time and this is exactly what Marine Corps Base Quantico’s Single Marine Program (SMP) has set out to do for their neighboring communities.
The program, originally established in 1995, was created to offer single Marines and sailors an improved quality of life aboard base with enhanced recreational opportunities and community involvement opportunities.
SMP Program Manager Michael Moore has continually boasted about the work that the Marines accomplish as he believes the gift of service is something to be valued.
“There is so much time in the day to invest into other people, into the areas which they live, work and play,” Moore said. “The SMP program affords many Marines who might be stuck in the barracks the opportunity to do more with their time than sleep or stare up at the ceiling—it gives them purpose and a chance to make a real impact.”
For Sgt. Jesus Cervantes, a data analyst for Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1), having a purpose and influencing his nation was exactly what he was looking for when he joined the Marine Corps, but found even more when he discovered SMP.
“Being a Marine is like having a permanent badge of honor that very few people can say they have and I am very grateful to the Marine Corps for providing me with the tools and knowledge to help out the nation in any way I can,” Cervantes said. “I chose the Marine Corps because I wanted to help out my country, but I also wanted a challenge that I knew the other branches would not be able to provide like the Marine Corps.”
According to Cervantes, SMP has provided him with an enjoyable experience, with opportunities that otherwise he would not have had and he is grateful for the services he could provide.
“I would describe volunteering with SMP as simple—an escape from my normal route,” Cervantes said. “If you are looking to get out of the barracks or break away from your normal routine and experience something new, then volunteering can help you do this. I like to experience new things as well as help others and volunteering is just one way to be able to accomplish this. It also helps me meet new people and possibly learn a few new skills that I might not have otherwise.”
Cervantes will always remember one of the most unique volunteering experiences was at Prince William Forest Park where he helped the park rangers find navigation markers in the woods.
He said even with GPS systems volunteers were having trouble locating them all, but this opportunity allowed him to appreciate how big and majestic the park actually was.
However, Cervantes is just one of many Marines touched by the program.
Cpl. Kayla Soles, travel noncommissioned officer in charge at the Disability Retirement Section, described her two years with the SMP as a “rising experience.”
“When I first got to Quantico in June 2015 I sat in the barracks the majority of the time; however, over time I really utilized this program and ever since I have seen what this program can do and offer,” Soles said. “I have made it a personal goal to help improve and ensure Marines utilize this program.”
Soles is the acting SMP Executive Council president, where her mission is to ensure a strong quality of life within the program, as well as find unique volunteer opportunities for Marines to take part in.
“People have hobbies, talents, things they are good at,” Soles said. “Volunteering is my thing and it's something I've been passionate about and had fun with since I was a kid.”
As the corporal reminisced about some of her memorable volunteer experiences, she recalled an experience last year at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C. where she sat down with elderly veterans and played bingo, shared stories and danced alongside them.
“It seems like both the residents of the home and the Marines really enjoyed it,” Soles said. “It is moments such as these that lift the heart of Marines and keep them volunteering”
Another Marine shared an experience very similar to this.
Sgt. Tya Joiner, an administrative specialist in the Reserve Continuation Transition section at Reserve Affairs coaches basketball in the spring.
“One of my players sent me a card with a sweet and tear-jerking message telling how great of a coach I was and how soccer was his favorite sport but, because I was such a great coach, that basketball is now his favorite sport,” Joiner said. “That touched my heart because I love the game of basketball and to have that sort of impact on someone at an early age is what I find rewarding.”
According to Joiner, “The things that we do benefit us , but also helps out the community as well. Everyone wants to be known for doing something good and this is something that we do great on our spare time and so could you!”
The feeling a person gets from volunteering is like none other, because it's something bigger than you, added Joiner.
“The things that we accomplish do not only benefit us, but it helps out the community as well, “Joiner said. “Everyone wants to be known for doing something good and this is something that SMP does great and any Marine can do in their spare time.”
SMP members can get involved in volunteering by emailing email@example.com or by calling 703-432-0363. Those not in SMP can also find volunteer opportunities in the community and on base by going to the base volunteer management system at www.quantico.usmc-mccs.org/index.cfm/marine-family/quantico-volunteer-opportunities.