An essential concept found in the toolboxes of many Marine recruiters is that of the intangibles. The Corps, from its recruiters to its drill instructors to its fleet Marines, promotes honor, courage, commitment and tag lines such as "a band of brothers," "take care of our own," and "once a Marine, always a Marine."
But sometimes the consumer, that potential Marine and his family, need tangible evidence to these intangible mantras.
Recently, Staff Sgt. Charles Berglund and fellow recruiter, Staff Sgt. Matthew Houston, PCS Valparaiso, Ind., showed a few poolees and applicants how the Corps stands by its intangibles by volunteering at the 2003 Winter Stand-down sponsored by the Chicago Veterans Economic Development Council.
The council, a not-for-profit organization, sponsors two stand-downs a year. The winter event is designed to provide area homeless veterans with supplies that could mean the difference between life and death as they face the impending winter.
Berglund's and Houston's willingness to take a day away from their recruiting mission to support this year's event provided tangible proof of how Marines can help take care of their own.
"It's important that we show them (poolees, applicants, and community members) that we aren't just salesmen," said Berglund. "They need to know what I'm telling them and what other recruiters are telling them isn't just a pitch. This is an example of how we take care of our own."
Berglund, Houston, and four young men from the Valparaiso community gave their time alongside volunteers from many community outreach and veterans support organizations.
Among the services and items provided were flu shots, photo identification cards, social security claims filing, food, bus passes, and winter clothing.
According to Jean Douglas, Stand-down Steering Committee Chair, each organization provided something unique and essential to the health and well-being of the veterans.
"The purpose of the winter stand-down is to equip veterans on the street for the cold winter months by providing clothing, flu shots, and information about housing available to them," she said.
More than 500 veterans passed through the doors of the Northwest National Guard Armory. The Oak Park Veterans Center, Veterans Resource Center from Beverly, Ill., and the Evanston Veterans Center helped process each veteran as he came through the door. The sheer number of attendees left many waiting in the bitter cold for more than an hour.
Once inside, the VA Regional Office determined veteran status via computer link to their databases. It's a long process, but necessary according to event organizers, to ensure the limited resources go to veterans.
"The event is intended for homeless or near homeless veterans," said Douglas. "While we can ensure the people we are helping are veterans, there is no practical way to ensure that the people who come are homeless. However, it is safe to assume that you would not wait in the cold for several hours for blankets and underwear if you didn't have a need."
Aaron Bibler, 18, from Kouts High School, handed out some of those blankets and underwear to the veterans filing past a long row of tables set up in the armory gym. The day increased the quiet young man's sense of appreciation and dedication to his fellow service members.
"We should feel a sense of responsibility to take care of the veterans because of the sacrifices they made for us," said Bibler. "I wouldn't have as much as I do, the opportunities, freedoms, ... if they hadn't fought for us."