Making a difference, in and out of uniform

by Sgt. Eric Oberg
Stripes Guam

Editor’s Note: Sgt. Eric Oberg is a Marine currently deployed to Iraq. Here’s his take on volunteering. Eric, thanks for your service, in uniform and out.

 

Whether a Marine’s selfless act of volunteer service takes place in garrison  or while deployed on the front lines, there are always those in need of a helping hand. The sacrifice of one's time to benefit others and better the world around them, is the epitome of what the Marine Corps and the Marines who serve stand for. 

I want to express my passion for volunteering and show others the positive impact that it can have on the Marine Corps, service members, organizations and the community worldwide.
 
At the age of five, I was  admitted into the Cub Scouts by my mother, Linda Moeckli, who at the time had devoted all of her free time to being a Cub Scout Leader and volunteer. As  a Cub Scout, I learned valuable skills, gained self-confidence, and after being motivated by my mother, I learned the importance of sacrificing my time to help others.
 
She had inspired me to be a part of something greater than myself. This led me to later joining the Boy Scouts, where my passion for volunteering became intensified. There was something about going to sleep at the end of every day knowing that I did something to help make someone  else’s life better. My life had meaning and I was making a difference.
 
After graduating high school, I took wanting to be a part of something greater than myself to a whole new level and joined the United States Marine Corps.
 
After enlisting in the Marine Corps in 2012, I made it my mission to break the stigma about volunteering that is believed by many service members to be "not cool" or "not worth my time." I was the volunteer representative in every unit I was assigned to and I encouraged as many Marines to volunteer as  I could.
 
I was committed to ensuring that I left a positive impact on the Marines and the communities that I was  a part of. I want Marines to understand that volunteering will not only benefit others, but benefit themselves and their career progression.
 
With the Marine Corps becoming very competitive at every level, it is important to understand that volunteering presents opportunities for commendatory data such as Letters of Appreciations, volunteer hours and the Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, which in return will all raise a Marine’s Proficiency and Conduct marks, make a Fitness Report commendatory, and make them more competitive for promotion. It is important to use every means available to secure a spot in the next rank and volunteering is a good steppingstone in the process.
 
Additionally, volunteering opens doors for so many great experiences such as learning new skills, gaining experience in different career paths, meeting new people, making connections, and feeling a sense of making a difference. The possibilities are endless. I have volunteered my whole life, experienced so many things and met a lot of great people through volunteering, and I want others to experience them, too.
 
I ask each of my Marines to find something that drives them to volunteer. My drive to volunteer is motivated by many loved ones in my life. My wife, Jessica,  often joins me during volunteer events and car washes to raise money for cancer. My mother-in-law, Rhonda, is an active member of the Relay For Life organization that raises money for cancer as well. I have volunteered through organizations such as the United Service Organization (USO), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Red Cross, Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), and Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS).  All of these organizations give back to the community and need help in making a difference.
 
I am currently deployed to the Middle East, serving in Iraq and Kuwait in support of OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE. When I am not on 11-hour rigorous convoys throughout Iraq, I am spending as much of my off time as possible volunteering to help those in the Middle East. I have seen the effects that volunteering can have on service members, contractors, coalition forces, and even the local populace.
 
Whether it be helping provide care packages for those in need throughout the Middle East, assisting and visiting children at Kuwait Children's Hospital, or even simply volunteering at the USOi n Iraq in order to help provide patrons overseas with a quiet place to unwind from the hazardous  environment. 
 
The Marine Corps is centered around making a difference, and I believe if more service members volunteered it would benefit the way the world view's the Marine Corps and other branches of the military. I want to prove that there is more to being a Marine than just putting on a uniform. It's about what you do to serve others after taking the uniform off that really demonstrates the Marines Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment. I want to set the example for others to follow in my footsteps in hopes that I inspire others to volunteer as my mother once inspired me.

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