Building the next generation of future leaders and civic-minded citizens is the goal of the Ellis County Young Marines.

“Young Marines National has been around since 1958. The primary focus of the program is to keep youth from doing drugs, alcohol and tobacco,” unit commander Thomas Guarnero said. “It also helps to create a positive role model by teaching the core values of discipline, leadership and teamwork. We try to teach them how to make positive decisions for themselves.”

Teaching these skills gives youth the tools to be strong enough not to be a follower and make good decisions by having the ability to say no, he said.

When youths join the unit they go through a “boot camp,” where they learn about different subjects such as history, military customs and courtesies, close order drill and military rank structures. Once completed, the young Marines learn additional skills including public speaking, mapping and land navigation.

Units members have an opportunity to earn ribbons for achievement in areas such as leadership, community service, swimming, academic excellence, first aid and drug resistance education.

Community involvement is another part of the program in which members participate. The group has provided color guards for different civic events, taken part in veterans appreciation events, been a part of local parades and visited patients at veterans hospitals. 

During 2010, the unit logged more than 3,000 hours in community service and was named battalion unit of the year.

Guarnero said Young Marines have an opportunity to attend schools on a national level to build their leadership and survival skills while participating in wilderness training and water-based activities. 

Young Marines is open to all youth ages 8 through completion of high school. The only requirement is the youth must be in good standing at his or her school.

The unit has an opportunity to take part in a commemorative parade in Honolulu on the 70th anniversary of the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor and be present for a wreath laying ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial.

“The city of Honolulu is allowing for the first time a big formal event to commemorate the Pearl Harbor attacks,” Guarnero said. “They have asked the Young Marines National to help participate. We have to raise our own funds individually to be able to attend.”

Guarnero said Young Marines will host a car wash at Citizens National Bank (uptown) on Sept. 10 and a motorcycle poker run ride Oct. 22. The group also is holding a drawing for a rifle to help pay for expenses. Tickets can be purchased for $2 each at Shooter’s Edge Gun Shop, located at 1037 W. U.S. Highway 287 Bypass in Waxahachie; the American Legion Post 361, 706 Rumbo Road in Ennis; and at VFW Post 3894, 1405 N. Interstate 35E in Waxahachie.

For more information about Ellis County Young Marines, meeting times, location and donations, contact Guarnero at 469 446-6652 or email co@elliscountyym.org.

Visit online at www.elliscountyym.org. Donations to the group can be made at any Citizens National Bank Location by asking for the Ellis County Young Marines account.