By Ryan Cornell
The Shenandoah Valley Young Marines, one of more than 300 units providing community service and drug awareness programs across the country, is going to spend next week helping serve military veterans.
Members of the Young Marines will be serving lunch to homeless veterans bussed into the Veterans Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., while another part of the unit will be constructing and clearing pathways to nature trails at the Boulder Crest Retreat, a sanctuary in Bluemont for wounded veterans and their families.
The kids will also serve breakfast to veterans who come into the Winchester Elks Lodge on Nov. 17.
But next week isn't the only time the unit helps out military veterans.
Last month, the unit greeted veterans on an honor flight from Austin, Texas, and assisted them around their tour of the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.
The group is regularly involved in performing as color guard both locally and at special events in D.C. and spreading drug awareness information and supplies during Red Ribbon Week in October.
Although the Marines' name is attached to the program, Unit Commander Denise Corder said that the Young Marines isn't a recruiting tool or a disciplinary organization.
"People have a misconception that we are bringing kids into the Marine Corps," she said. "We just share the core values."
She said the program is open to boys and girls from 8 years old to whenever they graduate high school and strengthens youths by providing physical fitness and leadership skills.
"Whatever job or profession they pick, hopefully this will help them become productive adults," she said.
Describing the Young Marines as a blend of JROTC and the Boy Scouts, she said the program has made a big difference for her own son. Corder said her son has become much more confident through his five years with the program and comfortable with public speaking, delivering speeches in front of town hall about drug awareness or working with counselors and the principal at his school.
The Shenandoah Valley Young Marines meets at the Winchester Elks Lodge on the first Sunday of each month.
Corder said kids in the Young Marines unit come from as far away as Harrisonburg, Purcellville and West Virginia.
For more information about the program, visit the unit's website at svym07.com or contact Corder at 540-550-3397.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or email@example.com