ORANGE, Calif. -- Six Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s command element spent July 15 volunteering at Camp Kindle West, a summer camp here for children either infected or affected by HIV or AIDS.
The children spent a week filled with educational development including health and character education and recreational activities including archery, sports and a zip line. This year the students got a surprise:
When the Marines pulled up to the camp in Humvees, curious looks turned to wide eyes as the campers realized the Marines were there for them.
“I was nervous at first,” said Cpl. Amber Gaskill, 21, a volunteer. “I expected them to be more reserved, but when they saw the trucks, they went nuts.”
The Marines made fast friends. The children came in groups of about 10, each climbing on the Humvees, trying on the Marines' body armor and beeping the horn.
“I knew the small boys would like it,” said Nichol Costa, director of camping programs for Camp Kindle. “But everyone really loved having (the Marines) here.”
In addition to the show-and-tell, the Marines ate lunch with the campers, zipped down a zip line and helped the kids shoot archery targets.
Costa praised the Marines for sharing their time with the campers and letting the children see what Marines do.
“The group was very friendly and great with the kids,” she said.
The visit was especially meaningful for Gaskill, a Tempe, Ariz., native, who said she joined the Marine Corps to help people.
“We help people in other countries all the time, and it’s nice to help others here at home,” she said.
For Gaskill, the best part of her day was spending time with a camper named Devante, a boy confined to a wheelchair who sat in a Humvee driver seat, working the controls and beeping the horn.
“He said it was the highlight of his life,” Gaskill recalled. “Out of all the things I’ve done in the Marine Corps, it was the most rewarding.”