MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- While most base personnel took advantage of their Presidents Day to visit family or get together with friends, 30 MCAGCC-based Marines and Sailors used their well-deserved time off to feed the hungry.
The group spent Feb. 19 serving meals at San Diego's St. Vincent DePaul Village, a homeless shelter and food pantry.
"They were excellent workers," said St. Vincent DePaul volunteer coordinator Laura Kojima, "They had to stay a lot longer than usual because we had more people than expected. All the Marines had a great attitude."
Marines served 743 meals, consisting of everything from spaghetti to chicken and stuffing, to San Diego's homeless, said SSgt. Richard Lewis, an instructor in the Marine Corps Communications and Electronics School's Entry-level Small Computer Specialist course. About half of the MCAGCC contingent were ESCS students.
"Doing things like this shows students that, as Marines, they have a higher responsibility than just themselves," Lewis said.
"It made me proud to be a Marine," said ESCS student PFC Nanese Rhodes, 21, of Weatherford, Okla. "I felt like I was doing something for my country, helping the people I'm supposed to protect."
"I've never done anything like this before," said ESCS student PFC Joseph Eades, 18, of St. Petersburg, Fla. "It was a good opportunity to give something back to the less fortunate."
"They did just about every job there, from serving to washing dishes," said Lewis, who led the trip, which was coordinated through the division chaplain's office.
Kojima said Marines lending a helping hand to Southern California's hungry and homeless is not an unusual sight.
"Marines help us in many ways all the time. They come and help put up tents for winter shelter, and they're always helping us with large projects in addition to doing things like serving food," Kojima said.
One of the ESCS students saw the trip as a long overdue chance to help out her hometown's less fortunate.
"This was something I wanted to do when I was home, but never did. It was nice to get the chance to," said San Diego native PFC Laura Roost, 18. "It was also nice to get our faces out in public. We let people know that Marines don't just prepare for war, we can help out, too."