MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- -- Marines and family members with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, volunteered their time in an effort to help beautify the community in Copper Mountain Mesa, Calif., Oct. 26, 2013. The Copper Mountain Mesa neighborhood watch requested the Marines to help in the effort to remove trash from more than 30 sites within the area, which have been used as unauthorized dumping sites.
“Copper Mountain Mesa has been known as the dumping grounds for the Morongo Basin for such a long time,” said Linda Carmella Sibio, president, Copper Mountain neighborhood watch. “Contractors, who don’t want to go out to a dump and pay a fee, come out here and dump garbage in our neighborhood. I moved here in 1997 and back then, it was horrible but with volunteer efforts we’ve been able to get rid of a lot.”
The Marines and family members drove out to each site and removed various types of trash and separated it into four categories; tires, metal, wood and other trash. After multiple trips of filling truck beds to their limits, the Marines and other local volunteers put a dent in the goal to clean up the area but there is still much to be done.
“Today we’ve gotten about one third of the sites done,” Sibio said. “We plan to organize more events like this. There’s just so much to pick up out there.”
Many of the Marines said they chose to volunteer their Saturday for this cause because they were aware of the limited resources made available to the residents of Copper Mountain Mesa.
“For the people out here, it's very hard for them to get the man power (to perform the clean up),” said Lance Cpl. Tim Cassidy, rifleman, E Co., 2/7. “Maybe if they see us out here they'll think, 'Hey, these people don't even live here and they're doing this,' then maybe it will help them to stand up and add to the manpower efforts.”
The Marine volunteers believe that it didn’t matter what their rank or title was, it was important to them to get out into the community and help. Those who participated were comprised of lance corporals all the way up to the battalion’s sergeant major.
“This is our community too,” said Sgt. Maj. Fredrick Smith, battalion sergeant major, 2/7. “We live here as well and we're all in this together. It's very important that we’re seen as one big happy Twentynine Palms, (Calif.) family. For Marines and the community, it really goes a long way.”
Events like this not only help support the community, but also help Marine volunteers come together as a unit and bolster their team building skills.
“This definitely builds camaraderie and the unit's esprit de corps,” said Ssgt. Lorenzo Hernandez, 1st platoon sergeant, E Co., 2/7. “Along with that, it allows the junior Marines to say, 'Not only am I out here, but my battalion sergeant major is out here doing the same thing. I’m doing this because he cares just as much as I care.’”
As the day wrapped up, volunteers with the Copper Mountain Mesa neighborhood watch prepared lunch for the Marines and their family members. As the food was served, 2/7’s senior leadership expressed their gratitude and explained that they would wait until all of their Marines returned from the cleanup sites so they could all eat together. Smith stressed the importance of leading from the front and taking care of the Marines.
“As a leader, we don't ever ask the Marines to do something we wouldn't do ourselves,” said Smith, who brought his two daughters to come help clean up. “If my Marines can be out here doing community service then so can I.”
After eating, the Marines and local volunteers decided to go out on one more clean-up run. They knew they weren’t going to be able to clean it all in one day and expressed that they would like to volunteer for the next clean-up event.
“I can’t say enough about the Marines coming out here,” Sibio said. “They are just wonderful to have and we can’t express enough how much we appreciate them volunteering.”