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Belgium native, Sofie Patterson, is a volunteer lead with the Red Cross and used to work at a medical facility for the mentally handicapped. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Thomas Mudd/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Thomas Mudd

What I’ve Learned: Sofie Patterson

11 Feb 2015 | Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

I’m originally from Belgium and things are different here than where I’m from. I used to go to several different festivals that were held on weekends and if I wanted to, I could just go over to another country and see something from over there because everything was so close together.

When I first got here, I noticed the way people act, think, or even drive is much different. I was in culture shock for a while. It was something that I had to get used to. I’m still learning how to say some things correctly and people get confused but I’m learning quickly.

I like how easy it is to meet new people out here. I’ll be talking to someone and find out they were originally from Japan or some other place, which just shows how [diverse] America is.

I worked at a medical facility for the mentally handicapped back in Belgium. It is very different from what I do now with the Red Cross. I started working [at the medical facility] because my mother worked there and there was an opportunity, so I went for it. I thought to myself that I would rather have the experience [helping people].

I met my husband through a friend while on vacation in Georgia, five years ago. We like to go over to Joshua Tree National Park and hike. We can get away from [the base] but we don’t have to travel a great distance to do it.

I started to volunteer with the Red Cross aboard the base about 10 months ago. A goal of mine is to get a full-time job working for the Red Cross after I finish school, so I thought it was a great idea to get some experience working here by volunteering before I apply and the people here are great to know.

When I told my grandma that I [volunteered] for the American Red Cross she thought it was so cool. She remembers what the American Red Cross did back in WWII.

I wanted to join the Red Cross after I remembered another branch I used to see back in Belgium. I also remember being told about what the American Red Cross did back in World War II and wanted to give back to service members just as they did all those years ago.

I think that the work I’m doing now is fun. Not all things in the Red Cross are [negative]. Someone can get a message for when their child is about to be born when they are overseas which is a big deal when families are so far apart. We are also planning to give some training in things like [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] which can be used to save lives in an emergency situation. That’s part of the reason I like this job and this program, it does a wide variety of things for the community.

Being able to help people is something that I think is important. While I work here I hope that I can continue to help and support service members stationed here. I’m grateful for the opportunity to volunteer and gain experience helping Marines and sailors [in my own way].

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms