MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
On the morning of Aug. 27 the Temecula Valley Young Marines of Temecula, Calif., braved early morning hours and cool temperatures at the Combat Center’s Unit Marshaling Area to show their support for 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, who were deploying to Iraq, by distributing free DVDs to the Marines and sailors.
This kind gesture was part of the Young Marines’ newest missions, Operation DVD and Operation Helping Hands, which work in conjunction with each other to gather donated DVDs, and distribute them to service members in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as to those who are about to deploy.
Michael Guiles, TVYM commanding officer, said the Young Marines, whose program is modeled after the Marine Corps, are a youth organization with units setup throughout the United States and overseas, with each unit educating their young chargers on such Corps principles as leadership and discipline, as well as Marine Corps history, customs and courtesies.
Units are commanded by active duty and former Marines, and staffed by active and former military personnel and civilians who share their life experiences and knowledge with the Young Marines, added Guiles, a native of San Diego.
“We promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle, combined with community service, personal growth, and higher learning,” said Theresa Aguilar, TVYM executive officer. “The Young Marines gives children a direction for their future.”
Steve Hallaway, co-founder of Operation DVD, said the program of gathering DVDs for entertainment, started in November 2005 after a conversation with a friend who served as a minister in Kansas.
When a parishioner at his church who was home on leave from duty in Iraq, asked the minister and other parishioners to help donate DVDs to service members, the minister contacted Hallaway saying the service member told him that the troops could not even play baseball due to snipers.
“The next day Operation DVD was started,” said Hallaway.
In June 2006, the TVYM were contacted by Hallaway, and after he and the Young Marines National Executive Director, retired Lt. Col. Michael Kessler, expressed their belief that the Young Marines should be involved with the program, Young Marine units quickly got into the fight.
“The Young Marine units took full charge and marched forward into Operation DVD,” said Guiles.
He said all Young Marine units have sent DVDs to one of the 11 sorting centers throughout the country, with the TVYM sending over 12,500 DVDs, CDs and PS2 games, along with DVD players and 10,000 books to service members in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“On 10 September 2008 Temecula sent 30,000 DVDs to the East Coast for packaging and shipment to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan,” added Guiles.
Aguilar, a native of Temecula, said the program operates with people collecting DVDs and sending them directly to the TVYM or other Young Marine units, where the donated goods are sorted, labeled, and boxed up. Once the process is complete, all that remains is a call from a deploying unit asking for support from the Young Marines.
“Operation DVD survives by the kind donations of movies sent in by those wishing to help the troops,” said Guiles. “The response to Operation DVD has been overwhelming, we have gotten new and used DVDs from all over the country, and once I received DVDs from a couple in Canada with a simple note ‘God bless our troops.’”
While Operation DVD needs donations to survive, it also needs the effort and hard work put forth by the Young Marines and their comrades, who fight the weather, late hours, long days, and sacrifice their own free time to support America’s finest.
“There have been many early mornings for the kids, but they do not mind,” said Aguilar, whose son, Lance Cpl. Brian Aguilar, is a rifleman with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment stationed at the Combat Center. “There was a unit that deployed four days after Christmas 2007 from Camp Pendleton, and about 10 Young Marines took time out of their Christmas vacation to help out.”
Guiles said on Aug. 27 the TVYM, whose median age is 12 years old and whose alumni have moved onto the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md., and the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., met at 1:30 a.m. in order to support 3/7’s departure from the Combat Center.
“Countless hours go into Operation DVD but the end product is what is most gratifying and a huge lesson for the Young Marines,” said Guiles. “When they get to see the troops deploy and say good-bye to their loved ones it makes them feel a great deal more respect for our Marines and sailors.”
In addition to Operation DVD the TVYM have been aiding the nation non-stop since the units conception in 2002, with such missions as “Operation Guardian Angel,” which aided victims of Hurricane Katrina; “Operation Pages,” which collected 10,000 books for service members in Iraq and Afghanistan; and “Operation Provide Comfort,” which helped set up aid stations when firestorms struck California last year.
“I have asked the Young Marines why they would get up so early to do this, and other than the ‘because you asked for volunteers sir,’ I receive the same answer from all of them ‘because our troops give so much to our country and so much is taken away from them, at least we get to help them remember there are a lot of Americans that will be there for them,’” said Guiles. “Young Marines are like Marines, they never forget their Navy/Marine Corps brothers and sisters.”
For more information about the Temecula Valley Young Marines or Operation DVD, contact Michael Guiles at (951) 553-3519 or email@example.com, or the unit’s adjutant at tvymadjutant@tvym.