Playing with Marines

A Marine playing kickball with you can mean the world when Mom or Dad is deployed

A Marine playing kickball with you can mean the world when Mom or Dad is deployed.

That's the idea behind Military Day at Mary Fay Pendleton School in Oceanside. Marines arrive in fatiques, some with face paint, and hold drills with the kids. There was hula hoop hopping over here and jungle gym climbing over there.

This isn't just your normal PT (physical training) course. For the 800 students at Mary Fay, many of whom have parents in active military, it's a chance to hang out with someone who understands military life.

"Dad goes away for a year and it’s very rare that they’ll get a chance to just play with a Marine, “ said Principal Lynne Gilstrap. “One little boy told one of the Marines ‘You’re just like my Daddy.’ Now, To hear something like that makes the whole day worthwhile.”

For the Marines, it's a chance to volunteer and have some fun with children of fellow Marines who are deployed.

Sgt. Victor Couillard was one of the Marines who volunteered to participate. He considered the day as a chance to get children excited about exercise, something he tries to instill in his own kids, taking them along on runs.  “They don’t like it too much because I go a little too far sometimes,” he said.

The school has a 65 percent mobility factor, according to Gilstrap. Of every 20 children enrolled, 12 will move in or out of the school during the year.

"The kids have to connect to something," she said Gilstrap. She believes days like these give them an opportunity to connect to other military families. 

"So many fathers are deployed right now and for the kids, to see a Marine out there hanging with them and playing out there it sure helps these kids out," she said.

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