Guam – Participants in Valiant Shield 2012 took a break from their training to assist the local community during the 18th Annual International Coastal Cleanup on Guam this past Saturday, Sept. 15.
The coastal cleanup is a combined effort from local government agencies, local businesses, dive shops, private and non-profit organizations, federal agencies and the U.S. military, according to a news release from the Guam Coastal Management Program (GCMP). “This is the largest volunteer event in Guam and we are happy to see so many people come out every year to help protect the ocean from marine debris,” said Thomas Morrison, director of the Bureau of Statistics and Plans, one of the lead agencies involved in the cleanup.
Many of the service members living on Guam or visiting for Valiant Shield came out to give the community their support. Servicemembers from Valiant Shield 2012 who participated in the cleanup went to 18 locations around the island to remove litter from parks and beaches. “We want to make an effort to keep their shores clean,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Travis E. Coffey, the Deputy Chaplain with Headquarters, Marine Aircraft Group 12 and a participant in this year’s cleanup. “It is important to leave the environment in better condition than when we came.”
[U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Giovanny Monobe collects litter during the International Coastal Cleanup on Guam]
While the event is very large in Guam, it is held on a regular basis elsewhere as well. “The International Coastal Cleanup is not just in Guam, it is an endeavor to clean our coastlines that takes place all over the U.S.,” said Christine Camacho, a special events coordinator with the Guam Coastal Management Program.
The participants were asked to keep a log of everything they picked up during the cleanup. The records from this year’s cleanup will then be sent to the Ocean Conservancy in Washington D.C., where the data will be published by geographic location and used for environmental studies.
The event will not only help keep the coastlines clean and provide material for studies, it will also greatly benefit the schools on Guam. “The aluminum we collect actually goes to the schools because they participate in an ‘I Recycle’ program, which is used for the financial benefits of the all the schools on Guam,” said Camacho. “It becomes a little competition for the schools to collect the most cans.”
The cleanup also helps the community get back in touch with Guam’s indigenous Chamorro culture. “One of the biggest reasons I think this is so important is because it ties the community back to the land,” said Camacho. “On Micronesian Islands, our livelihood originally came from the land. This program can get us involved and help us remember where we came from.”
This is a community-sponsored event that would not be possible without the support of so many participants, according to Camacho. “We have families, organizations, taekwondo groups and military members who come out to support this,” said Camacho. “The service members are invited because they are a part of this community. There are a lot of service members that live and train on this island and it is very important that we involve all parts of our community.”
The servicemembers supporting Valiant Shield 2012 couldn’t agree more. “Community relations like this give the Marines an opportunity to get out of their work spaces and get out into the community to show that we care,” said Coffey. “It is not just about the opportunity to train here, its important for us to give back.”