Monday, May 28, 2012

The Navy in the Schools

For those of you who don't know, May is Military Appreciation Month. As such, we here at Big Dave and Company have decided that we are going to write a post for each of the service branches showing how they do so much more than fight for our country. Since they are all equally important, we are just going to go alphabetically. Today we look at the Navy.

    The Navy Community Service Program has five flagship areas that they focus their community service and volunteer efforts towards.  One of those is called Campaign Drug Free.  Recently, members of the Navy Readiness Command (REDCOM) Northwest spent some time at Marysville Middle School in Washington State as part of the program.  The Sailors spoke with 541 seventh graders throughout the day about things like drug awareness, making smart decisions, and the importance of having positive goals.  While this happens all around the country all the time, let's take a little more in-depth look at the experience at Marysville.
     Yeoman 2nd Class Juan Piper, who is the Campaign Drug Free co-ordinater for REDCOM Northwest, stressed the importance of sailors using their influence and status for the cause of the program.  "Kids are the future of this country.  They need to be empowered and educated.  They need tools to use in case they are approached by someone who offers them drugs."  Marysville Middle School intervention specialist Rhonda Moen agreed about the effect that sailors can have on young minds.  "Just having the Sailors come to the school in uniform is an act of intervention.  The kids respect people in uniforms and will listen to what they have to say."  This is part of the critical importance Campaign Drug Free.
     While all the Sailors at Marysville gave the same general message, there were certain Sailors who addressed more specific issues within the community.  Since methamphetamine use is heavy in the Marysville area, Yeoman 1st Class Celia Mendez spoke about their use and its consequences. "I learned about [methamphetamines] so I could help the children in the community.  They are facing things I never had to face at their age."  Piper went on to note that "even though we can't fix everything in one day, we can show them that there are outlets to help."
      And the program seems to be working, if measured by the reactions of the teachers and staff at Marysville.  "the teams were informed, interesting, and used good teaching styles that engaged the students," observed Bill Write, a health and drama teacher at the school.  Moen added that "I've heard nothing but good things from the students and teachers.  I certainly hope the Sailors will come again."  While it is almost impossibly to quantify the effect that Campaign Drug Free is having on the students it has visited, the presence of men and women in uniform giving the anti-drug message certainly cannot hurt.
    Campaign Drug Free is just one arm of a comprehensive Navy program to get Sailors out making our communities better places.  In addition to the war on drugs, Naval personnel are out tutoring, mentoring and promoting citizenship among youth as part of the Personal Excellence Partnership Program, serving needy families as part of Project Good Neighbor, promoting the health of today's youth in the Health, Safety, and Fitness Flagship, and doing their best to improve the environment as part of their Environmental Stewardship program.  All fine examples of our servicemen and women doing their part to make our world a better place.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Marines in the Yard

For those of you who don't know, May is Military Appreciation Month. As such, we here at Big Dave and Company have decided that we are going to write a post for each of the service branches showing how they do so much more than fight for our country. Since they are all equally important, we are just going to go alphabetically. Today we look at the Coast Guard.

     Bukit Harapan Theraputic Community is a Malaysan group that cares for and participates in the rehabilitation of disabled children, as well as a shelter home for aboused, single, or disabled women. It also provides a home for orphaned children. On their website, they state:

     It has always been the goal of Bukit Harapan to aid the helpless from the young to the old so that they may find confidence in life again, so that they may see the reason to stay alive, so that they may stand on their feet again and so that they may forgive those who have hurt them and to look forward to the future.

     But even an organization that dedicated itself to helping other can use some help itself from time to time. And so Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit - which are stationed on the USS Makin Island - visited Bukit Harapan recently to visit the children and help with some of the yard work and chores around the compound.
     While the main chore that the Marines helped with was cleaning mud out of a drainage trench on the property, but it is the visiting with the children that really highlights the day. "Even though there is a language barrier, the kids always enjoy themselves when [U.S. military members] visit..." noted Audra Keyworth, the Bukit Harapan adminsitrator.
     While half of the volunteers were out working in the trench, the other half were playing with the children. Marines played games like Duck, Duck, Goose, colored, and took pictures with the kids. To cap off the day, the Makin Island's First Class Petty Officer's Association - an association of the Naval Officers on the ship - donated $500 to Bukit Harapan.
     While many Marines are stationed aboard Navy ships, they remain just as dedicated as their fellow branches to public service, both at home and abroad. Their work at Bukit Harapan is just another prime example of how our servicemen and women strive to make the world a better place beyond just protecting it from tyranny and danger.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Coast Guard in the Bay

For those of you who don't know, May is Military Appreciation Month. As such, we here at Big Dave and Company have decided that we are going to write a post for each of the service branches showing how they do so much more than fight for our country. Since they are all equally important, we are just going to go alphabetically. Today we look at the Coast Guard.

     Barnegat Bay sits along the coast of central New Jersey, separated from the roiling Atlantic Ocean by a long string of barrier islands and peninsulas.  Explorer Henry Hudson described the bay as early as 1609, noting it as "...a great lake of water, as we could judge it to be...The mouth of the lake hath many shoals, and the sea breaketh on them as it is cast out the mouth of it."  In fact, the name of the bay is a rough translation of the Dutch term for "Inlet of Breakers."   The Bay has long been a popular area for commercial fishing, and in recent years recreational boating has become more and more popular in the bay.  This has come with a population explosion in Ocean County, New Jersey, which borders its shores.  With this growth - however - has come an increase in pollutants and refuse in the rivers that feed the bay, which has adversely affected water quality.
    Recently, however, there has been an effort to help clean up the bay, and Crewmembers from the US Coast Guard Station Barnegat Light have been an instrumental part.  The Barnegat Bay Blitz, which is sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, gets together all sorts of people from the government, schools, businesses, and community groups to help cleanup the entire watershed of the bay.  And the Coast Guard played a leading role.
     Crewmembers spent part of a raw and windy and rainy day last week to clean trash and other litter from areas near Barnegat Lighthouse State Park on Long Beach Island.  "It is important for us, the local Coast Guard station, to partner with local agencies and individual volunteers to help preserve out maritime environment." stated the Station Barnegat Light's commanding officer, Chief Warrant Officer Jay Grenier. "By taking one day of work and dedicating it to cleaning up the environment, we help make it a better place."  It is always considered good form to keep your workplace clean and tidy.
      This is just a small example of the work that Coast Guard Crewmembers do every day across the country and around the world to make the places in which they are stationed better places to live, work, and visit.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Applause for Mothers

     So I was at church this morning, and an interesting thing happened.  The Knights of Columbus were there, and everyone applauded for them.  The old, retired priest was there and everyone clapped for him.  There were some people getting confirmed and everyone clapped for them.  But when the Bishop said that he wanted to say a special prayer for mothers, there was no applause.  There was no applause for mothers.
       Now I understand why: there was no applause because the whole congregation was saying a special prayer for them.  But I contend that there still should have been some applause for all the mothers in the congregation and throughout the rest of the world, because if there is anyone who deserve applause it is them.
     Here is the deal, Company: For every awful mother that you see on Maury Povich or Cops, there are approximately thirteen thousand fantastic mothers out there.  And let's not mince words here, folks.  It is not an easy thing to be a mother.  Not in the least bit.  To begin with, birthing a child is an unbelieveably painful thing.  Or at least I can imagine.  I - being a boy - have never given birth to a child, but I have seen what women have to go through and I wouldn't want to have to do it not for anything.  Epiderals aside, all the stuff you have to go through for those nine months means you deserve a million billion thanks and ∞+4 respect points.
Even Bender is calling on you to applaud you mother.
     So we will skip the birth - where the dad passes out six seconds in and the mom is cool and collected through the whole thing - and move on to once the kid is alive.  Now, no matter how much work the dad does in terms of changing diapers and feeding and all that jazz the lions share of the work always seems to fall onto the mother.  And let's be honest, there is something biological that makes children always have a special affinity for their mothers.  Until the time when they are like twelve or so - and we all know what happens once they become teenagers.
     Once you really start to think about things, mothers are the unsung heroes of humanity.  And if you are alive and in a situation where you can read this on a computer or a phone, then your mother or some sort of motherly figure has obviously done something right to shepherd you through life.  I know that my mom did a pretty great job.  So they definitely deserved that prayer that they got this morning - that prayer and a thousand more.  But they also deserved more.  Much more.  So the least that we can go is give up a little bit of applause for mothers.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Army in the Gym

For those of you who don't know, May is Military Appreciation Month. As such, we here at Big Dave and Company have decided that we are going to write a post for each of the service branches showing how they do so much more than fight for our country. Since they are all equally important, we are just going to go alphabetically. Today we look at the Army.

     The Oklahoma Explosion are a team of 14 diverse seventh grade boys who play AAU basketball throughout the Midwestern United States.  They are coached by Sgt. First Class Thomas Cook, a noncomissioned officer at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma.  Sgt. Cook donates 25 hours of his time every week to help guide these young men through life and basketball, and to help prepare them to play the game at the high school and college level.
      Sgt. Cook has made the Explosion known for a fast-paced and agressive style of basketball, but the coaching staff strives to teach other things such as confidence and perseverence.  All of that is geared towards getting the kids into college.  "Our vision is to get the kids in school somewhere so the parents don't have to pay for it.  We want them to go to school whether through basketball or not.  School is the number one focus." said Sgt. Cook.
     The coach gets high marks from his players and their parents.  "He's teaching me how to fix my attitude" noted 13-year-old Dashawn Wade when asked about his coach.  Chris Scott's stepson plays for Sgt. Cook. "He's a great coach and a great person because of the way he conducts himself." noted Mr. Scott, pointing to his management of the team during a recent tournament in Dallas.
     The Explosion is not the first coaching gig for Sgt. Cook.  In his pre-Army days, Sgt. Cook coached a little league baseball team in Florida.  Since beginning his Army career he has also volunteered as a football and soccer coach at Ft. Stewart in Georgia.  "With the rapid deployment at Fort Stewart volunteering is kind of though, but you try to help the coaches if you're not coaching a team yourself." noted Sgt. Cook of his days in Georgia.
     Sgt. Cook has a history of helpign shepard young men and women into and towards adulthood.  He is a senior small group leader for the Basic Noncomissioned Officer Course at Ft. Sill, and works at the Ft. Sill Noncomissioned Officer Academy.  Sgt. Cook's supervisor, first Sgt. Stephen Browne notes that he always puts his students first and has been recognized as Instructor of the Cycle four times since 2005.  Sgt. Browne notes that he is especially adept on his knowledge of new systems in both light and heavy artillery and that he is always willing to share his knowledge with others at the Academy.
     Sgt. Cook is a great example of soldiers volunteering their time and skills to help the communities in which they are stationed.  He sums up his philosophy in working with youth in saying "We're trying to keep the kids doing good, positive things and we try to be good role models, while keeping the kids fit."  A noble endeavor indeed.  Thank you to Sgt. Cook for all that you do.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Air Force on the Ground

    For those of you who don't know, May is Military Appreciation Month.  As such, we here at Big Dave and Company have decided that we are going to write a post for each of the service branches showing how they do so much more than fight for our country.  Since they are all equally important, we are just going to go alphabetically.  So today we begin with the Air Force.

     Grove Valley Elementary School in Edmond, Oklahoma had a dilemma in 2010.  They were trying - as a learning aid and experience - to create an outdoor classroom that was highlighted by a large wetland area.  The only problem was that the school was having trouble coming up with the money to make the project happen.  Meanwhile, the folks over at Tinker Air Force base were having wetland problems of their own.  Wetlands at Tinker were attracting lots of birds, which were causing issues for the many planes that come and go from the base.  When the Oklahoma County Conservation District realized that a solution could be found that would be mutually beneficial, they connected the Tinker with Grove Valley and magic happened.  Officials from the base volunteered their time and resources, along with folks from the Conservation District, Oklahoma Water Resource Board, Caliber Development Company, Land Legacy, the Oklahoma Forestry Service, the United States Department of Agriculture and a host of other organizations, to help plan and design a first-rate wetland for the school.
      In January 2011, volunteers from Tinker helped with initial construction of almost three acres of new wetlands at the school.  While the heavy excavation equipment was working in the area the school children were forced to watch from their classrooms, but once the equipment was gone they could help too.  By April, students from the school along with more volunteers from Tinker and folks from the Water Resources Board were wading into the mud and muck to plant donated irises, bull thrush, spatterdock, and other wetland plants.  Biologists and other scientists from Tinker helped to monitor the project, and soon the federally protected wetlands from Tinker Air Force Base were relocated to the grounds of Grove Valley.
      The wetlands and the outdoor classroom continue to serve their purpose for the 630 students at Grove Valley.  In the spring of 2012 they were out there again plating more plants to help rejuvenate the wetlands, all along supervised by more volunteers from the Air Force base.  "With the harsh summer we had last year we lost some of our earlier plantings, but surprisingly many of them are coming back" noted one such volunteer, Tinker Air Force Base Natural Resource Scientist Ray Moody.  And the students will continue to help with the project in the future, with plans calling for them to assist the Water Resources Board with planting even more species - including water celery, arrowhead, spikerush, cardinal flower, and even trees.
    This project - of which Air Force volunteers were a major part - was made possible by something called the Partners Program, which provides grants for partnerships between private landowners and the federal government, and won the 2011 Take Pride in America Nation Award from the United States Department of the Interior for the outstanding school program in the nation.  It also serves as a great example of the community spirit and dedication to more than just defending our nation that the men and women of the United States Air Force show every day.  Thanks for all you do guys, and keep up the good work.