The Chandler Mustangs Young Marines, over a nine-year span, has helped shape lives one youth at a time.
Chandler Mustangs Young Marines Executive Officer Capt. George B. Meegan said he has been encouraged by the unit’s consistent growth over the years.
“We’ve had an average of 30-35 kids over the last eight years,” he said. “They’ve been very active in community service over that time.”
The non-profit organization is for kids ages 8-18. Meegan said the unit is dedicated to helping the community. For the last nine years, the kids have taken gifts to the Veteran’s Hospital, performed community service in their neighborhoods and collected food for food banks. The kids recently were presented with an award from the United Food Bank for accumulating 700 pounds of food.
“It makes us feel appreciative that the kids are really doing something,” Meegan said.
Meegan said he hopes the organization can help kids look beyond themselves. He said the youth participating in The Chandler Mustangs Young Marines organization are learning to become less self-absorbed and more aware of other’s needs.
“I want the kids to be involved and develop a sense of community and doing something for other kids and other people.”
Meegan said he always hopes the kids take away an appreciation for physical fitness, personal discipline and honor.
“That’s what we’re trying to do is teach respect for themselves,” Meegan said.
Self-discipline is something Meegan is familiar with. He spent over two decades serving in the Marine Corps. He said his experience has helped him learn to motivate and adjust to people. He knows how to recognize strengths and weaknesses. He also realized he has to fill many roles. He, too, is learning and growing along the way.
“I was a Marine on active duty for over 33 years. A Marine is known to be hard. Those methods don’t always necessarily work with kids,” he said. “What I do is a combination of being father, grandfather, friend, counselor, preacher, priest—a little bit of everything.
“What works with one kid doesn’t necessarily work with another kid and you have to develop a sense of patience, teaching recruits in a boot camp atmosphere. You’ve got to have patience because they don’t know how to do things.”
He said, for some youth in the organization, this experience is brand new. It is an unexplored country. Adjusting to a different lifestyle is challenge. For most, it is a challenge the young Marines have overcome.
“What we try to do is an initiation into something that’s completely different to them. A lot of these kids have never had to pick up their clothes or dress properly,” he said. “They’ve never had to have their haircut, be on time, shine their boots. This type of thing is something new to them. It is also teaching them self-discipline, too.”
Building character, Meegan said, plays a big role in achieving future goals. It is a confidence-builder.
“It’s very important. You’ve got to show people what you can do,” Meegan said. “And you’ve got to be able to be depended on.”
The Chandler Mustangs Young Marines started with three adults and barely over a hand full of kids.
“When we first started we had six kids,” Meegan said. “The second year we were up to a dozen. We’re (now) averaging 25-30. We just kind of grew like mushrooms. We keep working at it each year.”
He said many of the organization’s kids have gone on to become good citizens. Recently, Meegan learned of a former member who is now serving on active duty in the Marine Corps.
“I was happy for this young man who grew up and matured,” he said. “He is doing his own thing right now.”
Meegan hopes for more success stories along the way. The Chandler Mustangs Young Marines have set a goal to make an impact in the community. Meegan believes they are well on their way.
“We’d like to continue to grow and continue to help the community and help the kids,” he said.