SAN DIEGO --
The audience watched with eyes wide as they stepped silently onto the pavement. The smooth movements of the group moving as one left viewers awestruck, until the silence was broken by furious applause and cheering from children, parents and teachers with Kumeyaay Elementary School in San Diego, April 19. The Marines and sailors had landed.
The mission: to challenge the student body to push themselves during physical education class. The tools they used to accomplish this task were an obstacle course, rope, baseball bats, a parachute, wooden eggs and spoons.
“I like the Marines coming out here to play with us,” said Diego Franco, an 8-year-old second grader with the school. “Marines are really fun to play with and my dad was a Marine. The Marines coming here to help us is important because I feel safe with them.”
Franco also explained that he had fun during the obstacle course the Marines set up for the students.
The volunteers yelled, hooted and hollered for the kids to move faster and push themselves harder, all while trying to find the best way to get through to the kids.
“It was an experience for the most part,” said Cpl. Andre Fradiue, a volunteer from Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38 and a Palmdale, Calif., native. “You had to change the way you acted for different age groups. For the younger children, you had to explain each station more thoroughly, where with the older ones, you do an exercise once and they have it. The younger kids would get excited over the slightest thing while the older ones required a little more enthusiasm from the Marines to push themselves.”
Fradiue is not a first-timer himself. He served as the secretary for Single Marine Program while in Okinawa, Japan, where they would volunteer with the local children as well.
While working with the children, Fradiue noticed something about the children interacting with the volunteers and about himself.
“The kids were really excited to see [us] out there with them,” said Fradiue. “At the same time, it made me feel good, because I feel like I was able to impact the kids’ lives and futures.”
When classes finished and the Marines went home, some felt closer to not only the community, but to each other as well.
“I feel like whenever I volunteer, it’s like a butterfly effect,” said Fradiue. “I could have an effect on so many possible outcomes and lives, just from volunteering to play with kids during school. I like making a difference.”
A Marine sized difference was made that day for the children, teachers and parents.
“I think [the fitness challenge] is really fun and I want the Marines to come back,” said Franco. “I want to follow in my dad and Chesty [Puller’s] footsteps and become a Marine.”
For information on volunteering with the MCAS Miramar SMP contact the SMP at (858) 577-6399.