"I've been in the Marine Corps for 17 years and have been working with the Young Marines in this area for 16 years. I was stationed at the 8th and I Marine Barracks and saw the kids there training. I just started volunteering my time and have been helping ever since. I like to describe the Young Marines as being the Boy Scouts with a Marine Corps structure to it. We do a lot of the same things as the Boy Scouts, like camping and community service projects. We also teach the Marine Corps customs and courtesies, without the war fighting. Young Marines are between 8 and 17, or whenever they finish high school, and have to maintain a 2.0 grade point average. The goal of the Young Marines is to provide better citizens in all aspects of their lives: at home, at play, in their communities, at church, and in their families. This is also a drug demand reduction program to make kids aware of the impact of drugs on themselves and their communities.
"We meet once a week, so we can monitor the kids' progress. The parents also give us a lot of feedback. I like to call this program a triangle evolution. You need to have the instructor, parent, and kid working together to make this an effective program. A lot of these kids haven't developed their morals yet. The Young Marines can provide ethics, but the community and parents need to play a role in developing morals. Ultimately, it is their morals that will carry these kids throughout their entire lives.
"Our goal is not to put these kids into the military. We aim to teach these kids to play positive roles in their communities. A lot of them go to college. A lot of them take the leadership and discipline and go on to prosper in other aspects of life. Many of them do develop that spirit for the Marine Corps and join.
"My reward is to see that we are helping these kids. If you can volunteer your time and do more than your part to help even one kid, that is important. This is a wonderful program that many people don't know about. There are four units in the D.C. metro area."
Learn more about the Young Marines here.
GySgt Paulk, right, is pictured with his unit at the D.C. Armory.