VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System
Young Marines partner with VA to clean up hospital
While many kids spend Saturday mornings watching cartoons, one group of Young Marines made an impact for Veterans served by the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Aurora, Colorado.
On March 6, the Mountain View Young Marines volunteered a combined 32 hours helping VA employees clean up the perimeter and parking garages at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center.
The facility, a 1.2-million-square-foot campus spread over 31 acres, provides Colorado region Veterans private inpatient rooms, new services and innovative care.
The joint clean-up team, which included eight VA staff, seven Young Marines, two VA family members and a Young Marines adult volunteer, was led by Shaun Fontenelle, chief of facilities management at the hospital.
The crew walked the hospital exterior and parking structures, filling a combined 13 trash bags of litter and debris, for a sum of 72 hours, at the premier medical facility northeast of Denver.
Among the VA staff clean-up crew was Michael Kilmer, director of the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System.
“You have to lead by example,” said Kilmer. “If I walk by a piece of trash, I pick it up. If I walk by inappropriate behavior, I intervene.”
Kilmer impressed on the Young Marines the importance of leading from the front.
“When we have Young Marines or other volunteer groups out, I always try to participate,” he said, as he exemplified the correlation between a leader caring about the mission, and inspiring others to work toward a common goal.
Fontenelle noted that the combined effort was as much a mentorship opportunity for the youth as it was for the adults, and stated he learned a lot more about “Star Wars” and dinosaurs than he ever knew. And he passed on his gratitude to the Young Marines for their hard work.
“What you did today really mattered,” Fontenelle told the youth. “You took care of our Veterans, and you took care of us.”
As for the Young Marines, the task was its own reward.
“We went over to the spinal cord surgery building and I realized those Veterans have bigger problems than me,” said Young Marine Lance Cpl. Jarret Theiral. “A few hours of my time to make this place better for Veterans is my reward. It’s my duty and honor to help.”