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Volunteering Changed A U.S. Marine’s Life
by U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Raymond Tong
December 14, 2022

Social anxiety is one of the most common issues children face in today’s world. It can manifest itself as the urge to seek approval from others or fit in within a group. Social anxiety is something extremely challenging to break away from because one has to confront their struggles and face their fears head-on.

This affected U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Yocelin Vertiz, an Allen, Texas native, currently serving as an S-1 Legal Clerk with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron (H&HS), Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Yocelin Vertiz, an Allen, Texas native, and an administrative specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni stands next to the Single Marine Program's sign at MCAS Iwakuni on December 8, 2022. Cpl. Vertiz currently serves as the H&HS Primary Single Marine Program Representative, where she helps coordinate events for her Marines. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Raymond Tong)
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Yocelin Vertiz, an Allen, Texas native, and an administrative specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni stands next to the Single Marine Program's sign at MCAS Iwakuni on December 8, 2022. Cpl. Vertiz currently serves as the H&HS Primary Single Marine Program Representative, where she helps coordinate events for her Marines. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Raymond Tong)

Growing up Vertiz was a shy and reserved child. Vertiz realized she was isolating herself from others and understood early on, it would become harder to overcome the seclusion if no action was taken. In elementary school, Vertiz was even enrolled in a program where high school students helped mentor younger children demonstrating shyness or social anxiety during their lunch breaks. The program helped by giving them an older sibling figure to talk about their issues and be playful with.

“I was one of those kids they had to pull from lunch, and I would just have to talk to my buddy because growing up, even though I wanted to do certain things, I would be quiet and didn’t have much of a voice,” said Vertiz. “I was fairly secluded growing up. The program allowed younger children the opportunity to relax and get out of the school environment.”

This program was the first step she took toward curing her social anxiety. As the years went on, Vertiz realized she had to start planning for her future, but she still was not fixated on anything in particular. That changed when the school hosted a function that offered students specific electives designed to help them find interest in a specific occupational field.

“When we were in school before the Freshman center, we were given a sheet of courses to choose to decide what future we want to have,” Vertiz said. “I always wanted to be a part of the government, and the U.S. Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) piqued my interest in high school. I loved the values and what I learned from it and the mini boot camp experience.”

Being a member of JROTC gave her an idea for her future, and after finishing high school and briefly going to college, she decided to enlist in the Marine Corps in January 2020 and eventually became the MCAS Iwakuni H&HS Legal Clerk. As a junior Marine, Vertiz still found some trouble overcoming her fears when it came to interacting with people. That is until she was confronted with the reality of advancing in her career.

"Closed mouths don't get fed." This was a quote said to Vertiz by one of her former staff non-commissioned officers. This resonated with her personally and thus, she set out wanting to improve herself. Vertiz told herself she couldn’t expect things to improve if she continued to do nothing.

Eventually, Vertiz found that volunteering in various different social settings helped her overcome her social anxiety. Her social anxiety reached its peak in elementary school until she started participating in volunteer work the school provided. This helped Vertiz become a self-confident, courageous, and compassionate leader through volunteer work in her community. This created the foundation for her to volunteer as her current billet as the H&HS primary Single Marine Program representative.

“When I found out about the Single Marine Program, I loved the aspect that it was not only to just help out the Marines and Sailors, but it was a community-based organization and not just the American community, but Japan as a whole,” said Vertiz.

Recently, an Inclusive Day event at the Atago Owl Park in Iwakuni, Japan, was hosted to foster community relations with the Japanese locals and provide a safe environment for children with disabilities to enjoy a day at the park. This volunteer event was one of Vertiz’s favorites.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Yocelin Vertiz, an Allen Texas native, and an administrative specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, teach children about trick-or-treating during a community relations visit at Josho Hoikuen pre-school in Iwakuni, Japan on October 25, 2022. Vertiz currently serves as the H&HS Primary Single Marine Program Representative, where she helps coordinate events for her Marines. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Raymond Tong)
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Yocelin Vertiz, an Allen Texas native, and an administrative specialist assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, teach children about trick-or-treating during a community relations visit at Josho Hoikuen pre-school in Iwakuni, Japan on October 25, 2022. Vertiz currently serves as the H&HS Primary Single Marine Program Representative, where she helps coordinate events for her Marines. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Raymond Tong)

“When people think of volunteering, they generally think about doing an event for an ulterior reason, such as for letters of appreciation,” said Vertiz. “With volunteering, I have the opportunity to voice out concerns told to me by other Marines and that helps them a lot. The biggest reason I volunteer is to see people smile, people are happy, and those that we are volunteering for are always so grateful and thankful that we took time out of our days to come to it.”

The Single Marine Program helped Vertiz find her second family. Through volunteering and holding meetings to improve the air station, meeting new people is one of the biggest reasons why Vertiz consistently volunteered. The Single Marine Program and volunteering for several working parties has given her the opportunity to meet people she wouldn’t have previously met.

Along the way, Vertiz has helped spread what she has learned to others. One of the people Vertiz has helped is one of her fellow coworkers, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Briana GarciaCuevas, the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron command pay and personnel administrator.

“Although I’m not one to be shy anymore, volunteering with Vertiz has helped me meet more people within the community and a lot more people in our command and really get to know them,” said GarciaCuevas. “It's interesting to get to know people we work with day-to-day on a personal basis, as opposed to just knowing of them.”

For Vertiz, the only care she has is making people happy. Although social anxiety made growing up difficult, she used it as a learning experience and has made every effort to overcome it. Now, as the primary H&HS Single Marine representative, she uses these experiences to advocate for her Marines and help coordinate events to help others and to cure the disease of isolation for some Marines in Japan.

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