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Marines take on Operation Brightside

By Sgt. Priscilla Juan-Sneden | | June 20, 2011

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This morning, as St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay proclaimed June 20 – 26, 2011 Marine Week, Marines across town began constructing an outdoor learning center at Operation Brightside headquarters.

Throughout the week, 20 Marines from 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Marine Week, will build a state-of-the-art garden featuring mini-ecosystems, Missouri-native plants, and a showcase of energy and resource conservation techniques.

Operation Brightside, with an average 20,000 volunteers per year, oversees several large scale projects including an annual citywide clean-up and graffiti eradication.

The demonstration garden will be an outdoor classroom focused on educating community volunteers in proper planting and sustainable landscaping techniques.

“The mission of Operation Brightside is to clean and beautify the city of St. Louis,” said Mary Lou Green, executive director Operation Brightside and St. Louis native. “We are going to use this garden as an educational outreach tool to teach homeowners and neighborhood volunteers how to replicate this at home and in their neighborhood projects.”

Teamed with the Missouri Department of Conservation and Alberici Constructors, the Marines will lay sod and build pathways and footbridge.  Additionally they will plant and mulch 2,700 plants, shrubs and trees to take the project from a construction site to educational garden for St. Louisans.

“We’re going to turn a vacant lot into a park for the local community and brighten up the area,” said Sgt. David G. Rusk, a Veedeersburg, Ind., native. “Upon completion of this, local kids who didn’t have a park to walk through to appreciate nature in the inner-city will be able to do that.”

Rusk has participated in many large-scale construction projects as a combat engineer. However, he said he was particularly proud to contribute to this community outreach effort.

“Marine Week is an opportunity to show America what we do as Marines and that we come from the community,” said Rusk. “Operation Brightside allows us to give back to the community like they’ve given us.”

As the Marines picked and shoveled through the day, commuters and passers-by honked, waved and shouted their appreciation for the Marines’ hard work.

“We wouldn’t be able to get this done like we are; as fast or as well,” said Perry Eckhardt, MDC. “That gives a testimony to [the Marines].”

The garden is scheduled for completion and dedication Friday afternoon.

“Its been fantastic working with the Marines,” said Mark Grueber, MDC.  “The level of commitment from all the contributing organizations including the Marine Corps already validates how outstanding this garden is going to be.”

For more information on Marine Week St. Louis visit marines.mil/marineweek or Facebook.com/Marines.


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