MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Many Marines enlist looking for adventure, a chance to travel and experience things they never could have from home. Unfortunately for some Marines, those adventures just aren’t in the budget.
Since 1995, the Single Marine Program has been giving Marines and Sailors the opportunity to participate in trips and events, such as weekends in San Francisco or Las Vegas, at reduced prices. They also provide places to relax and unwind with fellow service members at facilities across the country.
“If you’re happy and stable then it’s going to allow you to work better,” said Travis Zeller, the manager of the Camp Del Mar SMP Recreation Center.
Even with Department of Defense budget constraints, Marines can be confident that the SMP will continue offering an ever-growing range of activities and opportunities.
“The Single Marine Program is looked at as health and wellness because it supports mental strength,” said Zeller, a native of Temecula. “The commandant has always looked at the program as crucial for the wellness of Marines.”
Many young Marines who are away from their home, family and friends for the first time can feel a sense of loneliness. According to Cpl. Ashton Haymore, a food service specialist with Combat Service Support Company, I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, some of the greatest tools to help Marines are Marines.
“I’ve run into quite a few Marines who are depressed,” said Haymore, a native of Woodbridge, Virginia, who is temporarily assigned to work at an SMP recreation center. “Some Marines only have someone to talk to because they come here and socialize. People who aren’t even in my office come up and talk to me about personal things because they know they can trust me.”
Haymore said she wishes she had gotten involved with the program earlier in her career. She explained that it is consistently a relaxing place for Marines to process the pressures and stress in their lives.
In addition to a number of recreational activities, including musical instruments, pool tables, top of the line video game systems, and hundreds of movies, the SMP provides places for Marines to make connections.
“We always respect each other, but to build that camaraderie between the ranks, getting together and enjoying time off is what’s really important,” said Haymore.
Information seems to be the biggest obstacle preventing Marines from participating in trips and events or visiting recreation centers, said Zeller. He explained that there seems to be a problem communicating what is available to the Marines who need it.
“There are guys who have lived in the barracks next to our building for years and don’t know what we do,” said Zeller. “We just want people to know that we’re here and we have lots of opportunities to have fun and relax.”
Zeller said the most rewarding part of working for the SMP is seeing the difference it makes for Marines and Sailors who are thousands of miles from home.
Keeping Marines’ minds healthy and focused makes them more resilient and prepared to face unknown challenges around the world.