During the Presidential Service Award Program, held at the group’s American Legion Post #42 home in Cartersville, the youth were recognized for a range of efforts.
“This award is based on age for voluntary service for the community,” Unit Commander Jared Massingill said. “For us this is a huge event. This is the first year we have participated in the Presidential Service Award Program, so to have 21 of 29 of our members make this award is something we are very proud of.”
Under the criteria, those honored can gain recognition for volunteer hours over a 12-month period or the course of a lifetime. Awards are given at the bronze, silver and gold levels, which are based on the number of volunteer hours by age group.
Recipients may choose among several options for recognition, including an official President’s Volunteer Service Award pin, a certificate of achievement, a letter from the president or a combination.
Massingill said his unit participated in a list of community service efforts.
“Our members have babysat for the monthly foster/adoptive parents support group; gone twice monthly to a nursing home to play bingo with residents; volunteered at the Etowah Valley Humane Society; helped out with events for the city of Euharlee; placed flags at Oak Hill and Sunset Memory Gardens for Memorial Day and Veterans Day; reached over 500 youth by participating in various presentations for National Red Ribbon Week; hosted a Spring Festival. Some of our members participated in SPLASH Bartow; collected/distributed toys for Toys for Tots; participated in Wreaths Across America; volunteered with the Thanksgiving dinner at the Civic Center. These are just a few of the things our members did this year.”
While volunteering is at times a requirement for promotion within the Young Marines, Massingill said it is what the members learn that means the most.
“We do try to keep community service on the horizon at all times,” he said. “Our members have a sense of accomplishment and they also have a sense of belonging and brotherhood within the community. They learn what it means to work together as a team to benefit something bigger than themselves as a whole, which goes hand in hand with our core values of leadership, discipline and teamwork.”
Honored during Saturday’s service were: Private Calveigh Ashworth; Private 1st Class Emily Avera; Cpl. Micenna Brooks; Lance Cpl. Christian DiSclafani; Cpl. Emma Hartley; Private Montana Hartness; Cpl. Kyle Holcomb; Lance Cpl. Austin Hrossowyc; Private Mikala Kenning; Private Elysabeth Massingill; Private LC McGhee; Sgt. Thomas Morris; Private 1st Class Levi Neely; Private Cameron Rikard; Private Patrick Smith; Private Brylie Steinfeldt; Cpl. Tiffany Steinfeldt; Private Ethan Thomas; Private Malichi Walsh; Private Seth Walsh; and Private 1st Class Connor Watson.
For Brooks, a fifth-grader at Allatoona Elementary, the awards shows that volunteer efforts with such agencies as National Foundation of Patriotism, Wreaths Across America and Georgia Military Softball Association.
“I feel it shows how hard I work and how much the community needs our help as the above list shows,” Brooks said.
Cartersville Middle School sixth-grader Emily Avera said she enjoys giving back to the community.
“I participated in SPLASH where I volunteered at The Well during their [vacation Bible School]; we sorted and handed out bags of fruit and vegetables at the health department, we held a backyard Bible club in a trailer park, and spent time working on a family’s yard,” she said. “… I have spent time at the Etowah Valley Humane Society helping to socialize the animals they have that need to be adopted and have worked with my school to gather supplies for the humane society. Our unit was also involved in placing flags at the cemeteries around town on the graves of the veterans multiple times this past year, as well as laying wreaths at the National Cemetery in Canton.
“Probably the volunteer activity that I love the most is working with the animals at the humane society. It makes me feel like I’ve really made a difference when a puppy that is afraid of people begins to come out of its shell and is adopted, as was the case with a sweet dog named Macy this year.”
Massingill said the benefits of the Young Marines’ efforts extend beyond the unit and the awards they receive.
“The participants as well as the community benefit from these types of service programs by getting to know people from all walks of life. They can sometimes find a bond with people that they may otherwise never give a second glance to,” he said. “For some in the community just the thought that someone cares about their situation and are willing to help, and that these kids do this of their own will, give them a sense of hope.”
Woodland High School junior Levi Neely, who participated in numerous activities involving veterans, said he plans to pursue a military career.
“It is an honor to receive this award, especially when it is being awarded for things I like to do,” Neely said. “I enjoy being able to place the wreaths on our military's gravesites every year; it is something I look forward to. To march in the Veterans Day Parade to honor our military I take very seriously since I hope one day to be a veteran myself with the Marine Corps.”
Chartered in October 2010, the Etowah Valley Young Marines is a year-round program.
“We only take on new members twice a year for recruit training,” Massingill said.
The unit is currently accepting applications for the class that begins in February. Once registered, recruits go through a six-week training program. During that time, they learn military customs and courtesies, field skills, history and rank structure, Massingill explained.
For more information, visit http://www.evym.org/.