These are the homes that Marines helped build

Volunteers put project on track
By Rick Rogers

February 3, 2007

ESCONDIDO – A popular bumper sticker emblazoned with the Marine Corps emblem reads: “When it absolutely, positively has to be destroyed overnight.”

But Marines are quite adept at building things, too, as they proved Thursday at a Habitat for Humanity project on West Sixth Avenue.

On a muddy lot among clapboard houses, 20 people from the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot worked on a multiunit complex that will soon become townhomes for seven families.

Brig. Gen. Angie Salinas, commanding general for the depot, said construction holds special meaning for her and the other volunteers.

“Marines coach Little League, contribute to the United Service Organizations and feed the homeless. But something like this is especially important to Marines because we spend so much time away from our families,” said Salinas, who had no trouble handling a wood saw.

“Ten years from now,” she continued, “we can drive past this site and know that we helped people who would not necessarily have been able to own a home. Marines know how important a stable home is.”

Jack Scheid, a building superintendent for Habitat, said the Marines helped get the Sixth Avenue project back on schedule.

“There are a lot of military guys who have expertise in the trades, either in carpentry or electrical or plumbing,” Scheid said. “But one thing is for sure, they can all swing a hammer.”

Robert Haddick of Encinitas, a Habitat volunteer for the past six years, said Marines bring energy and enthusiasm to every project.

“They are outstanding workers and are fun to be around,” said Haddick as he and a Marine nailed a board to roof tresses that rose over the skeletal relief of the townhomes in squat Vs.

“We look forward to the help,” Haddick said.

And for various reasons, the Marines look forward to helping out.

Sgt. Angel Santos, 25, from Philadelphia, sees similarities between the United States' goals in Iraq and what he and fellow Marines aimed to do in Escondido.

“In Iraq, we were tasked with building schools and delivering food,” said Santos, who deployed there in 2003. “To me, we are (in Escondido) building something where people can live and make their lives better. In that regard, it is the same.”

For Cpl. Alfredo Hernandez, 22, it's simply about being a good citizen.

“If I were from someplace else, I'd still want to do this,” Hernandez said. “It's just like helping a neighbor out.”

Lt. Cmdr. Edward Pease, a chaplain for the depot, sounded the themes of gratitude and reciprocity.

“The county has been so supportive of the military that we thought it was important to give back,” he said.

Rick Rogers: (760) 476-8212;