SVA, VUB, V-SSS landscape, clean, organize American Legion Post 193
Mary Mabins, Pensacola State College
An early-morning rain shower, humidity and warm temps did little to deter a group of Pensacola State College student-veterans from helping a community organization on a recent Saturday.
TRIO Veterans Upward Bound (VUB), TRIO Veterans Student Support Services (V-SSS) and members of the Student Veterans Association (SVA) landscaped, pressure-washed and organized storage at the American Legion Post 193 on 12th Avenue in Pensacola.
SVA members Dustin Reddin, Jake Trevino, Lisa Marshall-Velez and Marcia Wade; advisors John Woods and Wayne Hagen; along with PSC advisor and U.S Army veteran Donovan Tennimon spent much of the morning volunteering at the Post. The organizations also partnered with Escambia County’s BRACE (Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies) members ─ Paula Benson, Bailey Caufield, Dorothy Reed and Lee-Ann Shaw ─ on the community service project.
“We not only had students but also their family members helping us this morning,” said Woods, the College’s VUB coordinator. “We started about 7:30 and plan to be here until it’s done.”
The cleanup was the groups’ first community service project, but members said they will be back to do more at Post 193 as well as other veterans’ organizations.
“We hope to partner up with American Legion posts throughout Escambia and Santa Rosa counties,” Woods said.
Wade, incoming SVA secretary, said the project was the perfect opportunity for her to get to know local residents. Wade and her three sons ─ Zane, 10, Gunther, 7, and Ryker, 6 – moved to the area from Springfield, Illinois, a few weeks ago.
“It’s a great way to meet people and teach my boys about giving back,” said Wade, who served in the U.S. Army from 2008-2012. “This was also a great way to connect with veterans.”
George Hill, a retired U.S Air Force airman and American Legion Post 193 member, was grateful for the maintenance and upkeep of the facility.
“This is a wonderful community service project and we really appreciate what these PSC student-veterans are doing,” he said, noting it is always important to improve your community.
“Members of our Post still perform community service projects. We are all thankful to be healthy enough to serve in another capacity. We love working with young people and support RAM, an organization that mentors young people between the ages 5 to about 14.”
RAM is based around Pensacola’s Morris Court Apartments neighborhood. The American Legion Post 193 often helps the organization with fundraisers such as car washes. The Post even pitched in to help two brothers (who are RAM members) start their own lawn service, Hill said.
“Giving back is what we were trained to do in the military. And as veterans, we still feel obligated to help – whether it be in the community or one of our own,” he added.
Pensacola State’s VUB Director Robbie Gregg said the desire to serve is engrained in veterans.
“Having the SVA donate their time and talents demonstrates the ‘esprit de corps’ that military-connected communities share,” explained Gregg, a member of Post 193 and the national VUB director. “The members of this post have a great appreciation for what these student-veterans are doing.”
Benson, veteran engagement coordinator for BRACE, said the group got involved in the project to engage with and help former servicemembers.
“When Mr. Gregg invited us, he told us we could bring some paperwork and just be a presence at today’s community service project. However BRACE personnel wanted to be active participants and hands-on,” admitted Benson, a retired U.S. Air Force airman.
“I recently retired after 33 years in the military and moved back to Pensacola. This opportunity to serve my own came up and I was thrilled at the chance to help out. There is so much need in this community and we feel good being needed. Today, it was wonderful to not only help with this community service project but also network with other like-minded individuals and groups.”
Gregg said the American Legion was founded on four pillars: Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation, National Security, Americanism, and Children and Youth. Each of these pillars encompasses a variety of programs that benefit our nation’s veterans, its servicemembers, their families, the youth of America and ordinary citizens.
“Post 193, which was chartered in 1945, has been an active part of the community since its inception,” he added. “The opportunity for the next generation of veterans to interact and help those who laid the foundation for community involvement after active duty service is invaluable and a perfect fit for the future veterans and their families.”