MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Students from the Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School experienced an early taste of the holiday season spirit.
Thirty Marines with Bravo Company, MCCES, attended a Christmas tree lighting celebration Dec. 4 at Casablanca Villas clubhouse in Sun City, Calif.
The Marines joined members of the clubhouse in a day of many activities such as card games, billiards and watching football on TV. Members of the clubhouse also prepared dinner for the Marines.
The event was put on and directed by the clubhouse chairman, JoAnn Ferrell. This was the first year the clubhouse invited Marines to their celebration.
“We wanted to do something good for service members during the holidays,” said Ferrell. “I called the Combat Center and coordinated a time for some Marines to come over for dinner and a celebration.”
Most of the student Marines who attended will not be able to go home for the holidays and will stay aboard the Combat Center during the liberty periods.
“Most of us here are very fortunate to spend time with our families,” continued Ferrell. “So we wanted to share our fortune with the Marines who are away from home and show them a great time. I think we added the right touch to their spirits.”
The Marines rolled up to the clubhouse in a Marine Corps charter bus at 10 a.m. The club members greeted them with hugs and handshakes.
“When the bus drove up it blew our minds,” said Ferrell. “I think it was a terrific response on both the Marines and us. It was beyond what I had imagined.”
Marines were overwhelmed with welcome and hospitality upon entering the clubhouse.
“The people here were really kind to us,” said Pfc. Simeon Elum, a 21-year-old Voorhees, N.J., native. “I felt like I was visiting my own family. The amount of effort they put into greeting each and every one of us was unbelievable. I was weighed down with welcome from the moment I walked in.”
All the Marines got a chance to interact with the clubhouse members, some of whom were retired service members.
“It was a pleasure meeting so many young Marines,” said Don Smith, retired Marine from the 3rd Marine Regiment who served under Col. Chesty Puller. “I loved hearing their stories of where they were from and what they wanted to do in the Corps. I exchanged them with my history in the Corps as well.”
The Marines conversed with their hosts throughout the day during games of cards and billiards. A big attraction to the Marines was the 1962 Ford Galaxy parked on the street, owned by club member Bill Lindsay, retired state commissioner and former Army tanker. Lindsay gave rides to the Marines in his car around the Casablanca Villas development.
“My car is one that you cannot find anymore,” said Lindsay. “This car is the one and only here in the United States. I bought it new when I was younger, and now I want to show these young Marines how I felt when I rode when I was their age.”
The day ended with dinner, ice cream and songs sung by a member of the clubhouse.
“It was a great time,” said Pfc. Keith W. Castle, a 19-year-old Traverse City, Mich., native. “The friendliness made me feel good, and I had a fantastic, home-cooked dinner. I will never forget this celebration.”
It was tough for the Marines and clubhouse members to part when the day was over but all commented on the success of the event. The Marines returned to base with a full stomach, great tales from former service members, high spirits and phone cards as gifts from clubhouse members.
Ferrell thanked Sprinkle's Trucking, Qualtech Concrete, Conehead Investments and the Menifee Coldstone Creamery for their contributions and support in making the event such a success.
"In addition to the looks on their faces, I knew they were having a great time when I overheard one of the young Marines on his cell phone," said Ferrell. "He said 'Hey, I'm telling you, you should have come...it's just like being at home.'"