‘The Marine Corps saved my life’
MANGILAO – The Marine Corps, the Air Force and the Navy joined forces with students at the Youth Correctional Facility on Sept. 22 for a basketball game.
The 15 Marines, 1 Airman and 1 Sailor are in Guam as participants of Valiant Shield, a biennial field training exercise with a focus on integration of joint training among U.S. forces.
At the Youth Correctional Facility, the service members, corrections officers and teachers focused on a different kind of integration, that of the individual youth back into the family unit and the larger community.
After a fast-paced basketball game where everyone focused on one goal of getting the ball into the basket, the confined students had the opportunity to ask Valiant Shield warriors about military life.
Service members reflected upon some of their struggles as adolescents and how the U.S. military has met not only their basic physical needs of food, shelter and medical care, but also their emotional need to belong to a family.
“When I sit down and think about my life, I cry, not tears of sadness, but happiness. I was always getting into trouble as a kid. The Marine Corps saved my life,” said Cpl. Brianna Reed, stationed with Marine Aircraft Group 12 in Iwakuni, Japan.
Other service members present echoed Reed’s sentiments with regards to the new family they found in the U.S. military. As in the game of basketball, they emphasized the sense of one team, one fight and one family.
Reed also shared how devastated she felt when her initial military entrance scores were lower than what she had expected, yet through sheer hard work and focus, she put in extra study hours to bring her scores up to a satisfactory level.
“Anything is possible,” stressed Reed. “It takes a lot of mental strength.”
Through the Guam Department of Education, Division of Special Education, each student confined at the Youth Correctional Facility receives individual attention from the six certified teachers. According to youth service worker Richard Mendiola, one goal of the Youth Correctional Facility is to reduce recidivism and the YCF does that with programs that offer positive alternatives to confined students.
The Marines highlighted the Marine Corps’ martial arts instructor program and suggested that some of the YCF students who enjoy fighting might excel at being a martial arts instructor one day. To achieve that goal, they will need both physical and mental strength. On the topic of mental strength, the Marines emphasized the importance of remaining focused and making a series of right decisions.
“The hardest decisions are often the right decisions,” stated Sgt. Joseph Adams, also from Marine Aircraft Group 12.
“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” Those are the words painted onto the wall inside the basketball court.