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Gunnery Sgt. Bryce Piper, II Marine Expeditionary Force
CAPE CARTERET, NC (June 2, 2009)
"They don't want to admit it, but some Marines are having more fun than the kids!" joked Staff Sgt. Ryan P. West as children and Marines laughed and played games all around him. West, platoon sergeant with 2nd Platoon, E Co., 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, and approximately 50 fellow Marines from 2/6 spent the day conducting a field meet with children and faculty at White Oak Elementary School in Cape Carteret, NC. West and the Marines of 2/6 returned late March from a seven-month deployment to the Persian Gulf with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
White Oak Elementary students participated in various physical education stations throughout the field meet. Marines assisted in the setup, execution and supervision of events as well as interacted with the children, sometimes competing with kids through the events.
"It's very important that the Marines are out here interacting with the children," said Kathy Hines, Physical Education teacher at White Oak Elementary. "Some children have parents in the military, others have no contact and no clue about it. It's a good community service for the school." "The children need to know (the Marines) do things other than in the field or on base or Iraq or Afghanistan," said Hines. Marines encouragement of physical activity was a key aspect to their participation in the field meet.
"Being out here and running around and being active," said 2ndLt Nicholas M. Thompson, platoon commander of 2nd Platoon, E Co., "it's very important for kids today. This event is telling them about exercise and being active. It's good to see them doing these things out here."
But Thompson was quick to point out the event benefitted the Marines almost as much as the kids. He said participating in the event helps the Marines break their routines and do something different.
"It's good for the community and the Marines," said Thompson. "It's good for the Marines to interact with the community and not the same Marines they see every day. The kids look forward to each event and interacting with someone they don't normally interact with."
"(The Marines) set a good example for the kids," Thompson asserted. "Helping is a big thing, being involved in what's going on. I think the Marines are having as much fun as the kids," he said.
Hines agreed that the Marines' behavior at the event set a good example.
"The Marines are respectful," Hines stated. "They have manners. I like the kids to see that. Our kids need to see that, respect and showing manners.
They're perfect role models."
West said it only took a short set of instructions to ensure the Marines knew what was expected of them.
"I told them not to curse," West said, "to keep their uniforms on, mind their Ps and Qs. They're representatives of the battalion and of the Marine Corps. Once you talk to them they get it. They made some jokes on the bus on the way out here, but once they got on deck, they had their game faces on." "We want to put out the image that we're not all muscle-bound jarheads," said Cpl. Aaron M. Minot, a squad leader with 3rd Platoon, G Co, "that we can interact with the kids."
"We're trying to build teamwork and hard work and playing hard and having fun," Minot said. He stressed that setting a good example for the children would have long-lasting benefits. "We wanted to show you don't have to be crazy to have fun, to show eighteen and nineteen year old guys that are respectful, not all punks. We're still kids having fun."
"They hear us out here not cussing, and that the image they sometimes get from others is not the way to go," said Minot.
"I like to talk to them whenever I see them," said Carson Brinkley, a fourth-grader at White Oak Elementary. He said he admires Marines, "because they do really good. They're good because of working with kids and saving our country and how not to be bad."
Fellow fourth-grader Anna Pearson agreed she enjoyed the Marines' visit and help with the field meet. "It's very important because we need exercise to have healthy bodies. (The Marines) are helping save our country and our lives," she said.