MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C --
A Marine stationed at Camp Schwab, Okinawa, Japan, received
the American Legion’s highest service recognition award and was honored as a
distinguished guest at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention in Charlotte,
N.C., Aug. 26.
Cpl. Ricardo Gonzalez, a Marine Air-Ground Task Force
planning specialist with 4th Marine Regiment, received the American Legion
Spirit of Service Award for his continued volunteer efforts and outstanding
participation in his community. Gonzalez was presented with the award by Dan
Dellinger, the American Legion national commander, and Army Sgt. Kyle White,
Medal of Honor recipient.
The Spirit of Service Award is presented to an enlisted
service member from each branch of the military for exceptional volunteer
service performed off-duty in their local community.
“I would always choose to volunteer rather than sit around
and play games,” said Gonzalez. “It is fun and, at the same time, purposeful. I
have invested a lot of my time, but what means the most is that a simple act of
my time can positively affect someone else’s well-being.”
Gonzalez has devoted an average of 11 hours per week to
volunteering since arriving at Camp Schwab in September 2012.
As service members, our purpose is to serve, said Gonzalez.
The Willow Glen High School graduate created an
intercultural exchange with a local university in Okinawa, taught English to
kindergarteners and instructed an English class for Japanese locals of all
ages. The San Jose, Calif., native has organized several beautification
projects and volunteered countless hours at the USO, with the Single Marine
Program and in local orphanages and daycares interacting with children.
“I was named an honorary teacher for the city because of the
amount of time I spent volunteering in the school,” said Gonzalez. “It gives me
a sense of purpose to see the kindergarteners' faces light up with a smile.
Although it doesn’t seem like much, I’m probably going to have an impact on
their lives for a longtime.”
Gonzalez has volunteered hundreds of hours to various
organizations on and off base, according to White. He is cited as a leader and
mentor in and out of uniform.
“I am a man of action; I will make change,” said Gonzalez.
“It is never so easy to smile as when you see someone else smiling because of
Service takes on different forms, explained White. Each and
every person has the ability to reach out and serve.
“No matter what, service is what defines us in and out of
the military,” said White, who was awarded the Medal of Honor in May 2014 for
actions iAfghanistan. “The sacrifices others make motivate me each day.
Continue reaching out and doing volunteer work and be the best you can be every