Fort Bliss Monitor
Military mentors join McArthur students in
march against drugs
Y. Wright, Fort Bliss Public Affairs
More than 100 Soldiers joined students at MacArthur Elementary School Friday, in a drug-free parade to close out Red Ribbon Week.
The 1st Armored Division, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment and commander Lt. Col. Ed House have developed a very special bond with the students at MacArthur school, House said. More than 115 Soldiers volunteer as part of a mentoring program with the El Paso Independent School District.
“We consider it one of the most important things we do, other than our warfighting mission,” said House, “because it’s a chance for us to make a difference in a child’s life. For many of our Soldiers, it’s their first opportunities to be a role model and a mentor.”
The program is in its fourth year, and this marks the second year that MacArthur has partnered with House; the first being with 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 5th Brigade 1st Armored Division.
“We really enjoy the partnership of MacArthur,” said House. “It’s a great school.”
Enriqueta Sanchez, the co-chair for the volunteer program at MacArthur says, the students can be referred to the program by a parent, teacher or faculty member. Sometimes the students may request a mentor. She then matches the students with a Soldier mentor based on the student’s needs.
“They visit at least once a week and some of them on off days,” said Sanchez. “Whatever [the Soldiers] can do for that student, that’s what they do.”
In acknowledging the success of the program, Sanchez has noticed there is not only a difference in the students, but the Soldiers as well. She vowed that if House’s unit deploys, “we’re going with you through the deployment. Whatever we can do, we’re going through it with you.”
Several of the 1-36th Inf. Regt. Soldiers who participated in the parade expressed their pride in having the opportunity to be a role model. Pfc. Daniel Baird, a tanker with C. Battery, said that if the program was mandated throughout the whole post, “I think we would see a lot more kids turn away from drugs, violence and gangs and actually become a part of this community.”
The Soldiers agreed that being able to stand with the students in their choice to be drug-free, makes them “feel good.”
“We want to be great role models for the kids,” said Pfc. Troy Stepp, a gunner with D. Co. “We want to make a difference in their lives by being an example.”
Elementary school counselor Laurie McGoldrick said she also noticed how the military role models inspire the students.
“They build bonds with them,” she said. “I see how happy they [the kids] get when their mentor comes in. It really helps.”
The program appears to be a win-win for everyone involved, said Sanchez. The Soldiers all seem to agree that giving time and attention to the students at MacArthur benefits the students and the servicemembers, she said.
“It’s a community outreach program,” said House. “There aren’t many military children here [in the school], so it’s an opportunity for us to show them what the Army is all about, and what Fort Bliss is about.”