MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Marines regularly go above and beyond the call of duty. For some, it's in the form of extra lonely hours on the job late at night. For others, it's a working party on Saturday morning. Still others might coach a Little League team.
For one Combat Center Marine, going above and beyond is such a way of life that she was recently recognized as the Corps' best volunteer when she was given the American Legion Spirit of Service Award.
Sgt. Evella Smith, Marine Corps Communications and Electronics School career planner, was selected from a field of nine Marines as the one who best demonstrated the successful inclusion of volunteerism in their day-to-day lives.
Smith spends several hours every weekend volunteering through her church. She has also been instrumental in organizing blood drives at MCCES which have brought in more than 650 pints of blood, and which enabled MCCES to break the Combat Center donations-in-a-day record.
"Sgt. Smith's community service encompasses something above and beyond that which is typically seen in today's Marines," said Capt. Darrel Allen, MCCES adjutant. "Her altruistic nature is nothing less than remarkable."
For Smith, giving of her time is a logical extension of her faith and her belief in service.
"If not for my faith and belief in God, I wouldn't be volunteering," said Smith. Her efforts through "Reachout 29," a community organization that helps the elderly and housebound with everything from getting groceries to yardwork, is coordinated through her church as are weekly visits to local retirement homes to sing, pray and talk with residents.
"It makes me feel good because I helped someone other than myself," the career planner explained. "It's a sense of accomplishment for taking the focus off myself for a while."
Volunteering is a team effort for Smith, her husband Sgt. Willie Smith, and their three year old son, Dawnoven.
"It's not just about Mommy, Daddy and him, it's about everyone," Smith said, explaining why they often take their son with them when volunteering. "It's a team effort and we can get a lot more done as a family."
For Smith, the benefits of sharing her time are many.
"You learn about yourself," she said, then laughed. "I learned how selfish I was through volunteering."
There's also a certain satisfaction that comes from seeing the work she does is appreciated, especially at the retirement homes she visits.
"It's something to see the residents open up," she said. "Now it's becoming a relationship where they're really glad to see us."
Smith's most recent award was never a goal for her. It's merely a byproduct of the hard work she and her family devote to trying to help others whenever they can. In Smith's opinion, it's all pretty simple.
"If you got it," the sergeant says, "give it."