MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - -- Grace A. Lebda, financial analyst, Comptroller Directorate
Interesting Fact: Lebda has 42 years of civil service. Her official retirement date is January 1, which is also her birthday.
I’ve been in Twentynine Palms, [Calif.] since 1975.
I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in New Jersey. Before I came here, I worked for the Navy at Earle’s Naval base in New Jersey and then I worked at an Army base in New Jersey before I came out here.
My mom had five children and she was a single mom so we were raised on welfare. That’s how I started in civil service. We were a low-income family and I had applied for the student aid program. That’s when I started working for the different bases. When I finally passed that program, I was able to come into civil service without even taking the test.
Growing up, I remember my mom was in charge of the Red Cross for the district. We used to help her go door-to-door and collect money.
When I got here, I was only 19 years old. I just wanted to get away, so I applied for a job here over the phone. I drove from the East Coast to the West Coast. I got here on a Monday and I started work on Tuesday and I’ve been here ever since.
It was my first time away from home and it was scary because I was only 19. When I got out here, there was nothing.
I stayed with a friend on base for a while and then I had to get my own apartment. I moved into this apartment with a set of dishes, my clothes and a TV.
When I got here, I was working at the commissary for about three months. Then this job opened and I applied for it and received on-the-job training.
I didn’t have any prior experience in financial planning.
I’ve worked in all different parts of the finance office. I started as a clerk and then I became an auditor and then I was in charge of military pay. I was [officer-in-charge] for military pay for a long time, and then when they moved the finance office down to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, [Calif.] due to consolidation I was a [Defense Travel System] agent. I’m also a lead defense travel administrator for the base.
I received the highest award a civilian can get working for civil service. I was taken aback, and I didn’t even know I was being looked at for that. My supervisor at the time recommended me.
I like dealing with Marines. When I was OIC for military pay, I had 40 Marines that worked under me and I just loved working with them. In fact, I used to cook a lot of food and feed them all the time.
I support the Marines, because when they go [temporary assignment duty] we ensure they get the entitlements that they deserve and we ensure that they’re paid correctly. When a Marine is paying off a debt of some sort, they come to us and make that payment also.
I’m on the Twentynine Palms community food pantry, and I hand food out twice a month there. I like to make sure that people are fed.
Food is donated to us and we hand out food to people who need it, like people with low income or the homeless.
I’ve been involved with this for over 15 years. I got involved through my church. They had a pantry at the church, and I just started volunteering.
I like to cook, and around Thanksgiving, I have people give me their left-over turkey carcass and I take that and make soup and give it to everybody.
I love to ride motorcycles. My husband and I do a lot of different runs for different fundraisers.
I started riding when I was in high school.
I ride with a Christian group and I know God has his hand on me, so I’m not afraid.
We do runs with different groups that are more hardcore bikers and they accept us because they know we’re Christians. They even come over and we pray with them sometimes.
I love plants. I used to have over 60 house plants. I don’t pay attention to the names, I just help them grow. I love to watch little leaves when they first start budding. When they’re all rounded up and they unravel.
I’m glad I came here, because I’ve met a lot of people. I can honestly say that if I were to take a trip around the world I would have a home to stay in.
If you were to open up my year book, under my photo where they write the descriptions, mine says ‘work for the government’.
I’m planning to stay home for a month. I have some unfinished rooms in my house so I’m going to work on those. I also want to volunteer for Tender Loving Christmas in Yucca Valley, [Calif.] and look into Unity Home for battered women.
It makes me feel good, I enjoy helping other people if it’s a true need.
I’ve been around Marines for so long. I know I’m going to miss working on base.
I like it all, I can’t pinpoint it. I like meeting people, I like meeting all kinds of people coming from all different places and just talking.
I’m not afraid to walk up to anybody and start a conversation. I’m not afraid to ask questions because if I was shy, how would I do my job? Don’t tell me I can’t do anything, because I will. To me, that’s like a challenge.