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Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force, thanks Marines and spouses of Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 for their participation in the Veterans Village of San Diego Stand Down during a luncheon held in their honor aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. Aug 12. The VVSD Stand Down spreads awareness about local homeless veterans and these Marine volunteers were pivotal in making the event a success.

Photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger

Generals honor MWSS-373 Marines for supporting homeless vets

12 Aug 2013 | Cpl. Melissa Wenger 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

It was a star-studded event as two commanding generals hosted a luncheon Aug. 12 to honor 70 Marines and spouses for their support of the Veterans Village of San Diego Stand Down last week, but if you ask the generals, the volunteers were the stars.

Maj. Gen. Steven W. Busby, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing commanding general, and Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, the I Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general, hosted the luncheon in Busby’s home on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and expressed to the honorees that the vets they supported are an extension of the active duty Marine Corps and don’t necessarily need a hand down, but rather a hand up.

“You guys have done a tremendous job of remembering their efforts, their contributions and their service, but at the same time we still have to do something about it and that’s pushing them into the right careers,” said Toolan. “I also think that the difference you have made by showing them that you care, and that a Marine is always a Marine, is going to kindle back some of that spirit; the spirit that made them Marines in the first place and may help them come back off the homeless path they’re on.”

Marines like Cpl. Cory Purl, a motor transport maintainer with MWSS-373 and a Plano, Texas native, were inspired to continue giving back.

“It’s a really good feeling knowing that you do actually make a difference,” said Purl. “It’s not like every other working party in the Marine Corps.  You get out there and you actually do help people, and you can see it when you walk around and see on people’s faces that you’re helping out and it feels really good.”

Another Marine relished the opportunity to participate in the annual stand down for the second time. He and his wife, Katie, bonded with one particular vet in need and aptly nicknamed him “Texas.”

“We’re from Arkansas, and we don’t meet too many southern people out here so it was cool to meet him,” said Cpl. Nicholas Sullivan, a combat engineer with MWSS-373 and a Fayetteville, Ark. native. “We helped him get through the clothing line and pick out some cool stuff. In the two years that I’ve gone, I’ve tried to find one or two of the homeless vets that I feel comfortable around and try to do everything I can for them so I feel like their individual helper, and it makes me feel good.”

That one-on-one commitment is the reason these Marines, from private first classes to gunnery sergeants, paid it forward in the eyes of their leadership.

“The reason why we have a Marine Corps is so that we can make Marines to fight our nation’s wars but just as importantly, is to provide good citizens,” said Toolan “I think that you all proved, hands-down by the efforts that you put forward, that you understand what a good citizen is all about in taking care of our veterans.”

While Purl agrees paying it forward with his unit’s participation in this event is commendable, he was still floored by the senior leadership’s response by hosting this luncheon.

“Obviously, this is something that doesn’t happen every day,” said Purl. “It’s probably one of the greatest honors I’ve had since being in the Marine Corps, and I’ve been in for eight years. This is by far one of the best.”

It could not be more clear that the 3rd MAW commanding general actually felt the honor was all his.

“We could not be prouder of this group right here today,” said Busby. “What you do each and every day is significant, but what you did on those three to four days with setting up and taking care of your fellow servicemembers who are no longer on active duty and are in dire need was hugely important. Keep doing what you’re doing. You make a difference every day and it’s my honor and privilege to serve you.”