Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island -- Before they march across the parade deck and graduate from recruit training, new Marines spend liberty with loved ones during Family Day. However, not every new Marine that earned their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor has family that can make it to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. That’s where Pvt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club comes in.
Outside of the All Weather Training Facility, after Marines are dismissed from their drill instructors to begin Family Day, the volunteers of the Parris Island Spouses’ Club set up their tent and await the ones that don’t have anyone present.
“We come out every week and give the new Marines a smiling face, a few treats, homemade baked goods, and let them use our cellphones to call whoever they want,” explained Lacie Matkins, who helps oversee Pvt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club. “The best part is just getting to talk to them, hearing their stories, and being the stand-in family they want.”
One of the first things that the Marines do when they approach the tent is borrow a cellphone to call home to their families.
“It was great to hear my aunt’s voice because my family couldn’t make it here, but I heard her break a tear on the phone and it felt so warming,” said Pvt. Jose Rivera, 23, of Passaic, N.J. “It’s so nice of these people to let me do this.”
The program has been reaching out to the new Marines for the past two years and began with Pete Lindenthal, a Marine veteran that wanted to provide a service that didn’t exist when he came through Parris Island in 1998.
“We never had anyone here in my day, and they should know that they are part of a family now, whether they are adopted, don’t have families, have families that aren’t happy they joined the Marines, or have family that simply couldn’t make it,” said Lindenthal.
Not every Marine approaching the table is always ready for the warm welcome that the spouses’ club is providing. The spread of fresh cookies, smiling faces, and iced drinks come off as a trap.
“They think there’ll be a drill instructor hiding under the table, ready to yell at them once they pick up a cookie, but after some time they warm up to us and open up,” laughed Matkins.
Pfc. Andrew Boone, from Suffolk, Va., said the volunteers were a welcome sight for him and the other Marines of Echo Company after spending the past several months around the less-than-friendly depot drill instructors.
“It’s a big relief,” he said. “We’ve been here for three months, getting screamed at every day and being told when to eat, sleep and when to walk and breath. It makes you feel like you can relax.”