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On November 21, 2011, policy was put into place by A.J. Bergen, commanding officer to the Combat Logistics Battalion 11, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, announcing the newest program. “Marine of the Month” (MOTM) is facilitated by a combined effort of Camp Pendleton personnel and Carmel Valley’s ‘Bells of Freedom’ program.
As described by Carmel Valley resident and President of DanceHearts and the Bells of Freedom program, Louis McKay stated, “The intent of this newest program deals directly with the issues that face Junior Marines, Sailors and their families during deployment. Deployment for any enlisted means, long months away from home, sometimes ship bound without normal means of communication with family, friends and loved ones. Even though there is much work to be done, the routine and stress of everyday tasks while on deployment can result in boredom, lonliness and sometimes depression. All of these factor into a Marine or Sailor’s effectiveness on the job, tension among other corp members and jeopardizes future advancement or compensation that not only effects the enlisted soldier but their families at home as well. Motivating Junior Marines and Sailors to pursue outstanding performance in their designated tasks, and encouraging them to be a mentor in leadership for young Marines and Sailors to follow, is our desire and reason for implementing the MOTM program. Deployed Marines and Sailors are inspired to excel, and their reward not only benefits the soldier but the ‘Home Front Heroes’ at home by the awarding of a gift and message to the family back home stating that the Marine or Sailor has outperformed every Junior Marine or Sailor on the ship. We hope that this new program will help to create a healthy ‘espirit de corps’ for the deployed member and for the family back home aswell. ”
“The ‘Marine of the Month’ is currently in place aboard the USS Pearl Harbor amphibious dock transport ship deployed from San Diego, November 14, 2011 for an estimated seven month deployment. The Navy did not announce where the USS Pearl Harbor is headed, though vessels from San Diego typically head to the Western Pacific and Middle East, making ship to shore communication difficult”, said McKay “but as soon as we are notified of the Marine of the Month, we are on our way to deliver the news to family here at home along with a gift basket and store script or gift cards for use by the entire family. The Marine of the Month is acknowledged aboard ship and combat photo and accommodation posted on ship’s Mess Deck”.
“We believe in this newest program. DanceHearts and the Bells of Freedom look forward to expanding this policy to other deployed ships and commands, but it will come down to funding,” McKay stated. “We are actively looking for individual, community, and corporate sponsorship and donations so the inspiration for excellence and leadership does not come to a halt”.
Bells of Freedom is a program of Dance Hearts, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization specifically dedicated to connecting our in-service military men and women to the community they serve in the form of holiday “family” adoptions, emergency support, vehicle donations and most recently, the development of Marine of the Month directly as it relates to ship deployment. Dance Hearts was founded in December 2001 by Louis and Tanya McKay, dancers by trade, and children of military servicemen by birth. Dance Hearts and more specifically, the Bells of Freedom program, began with the first Holiday season “The Big Thank You” in 2001 where individual civilians, organizations, schools, churches, synagogues, and corporations “adopt” and provide much needed extra help in the way of food, gift cards, toys, and other family needs.
To donate to Bells of Freedom’s Marine of the Month program, please visit the donation page on www.bellsoffreedom.org , and make a donation to the general fund, or you may send your donation to Bells of Freedom, Attention: Marine of the Month Program, 12750 Carmel Country Road, Suite 103, San Diego, California 92130. A donation of $150.00 provides a gift to the family of a nominated deployed Marine of the Month.