Camp Schwab, OKINAWA, Japan - USO Camp Schwab onboard around one hundred volunteers annually to their team, most of them deployed in Okinawa as part of the Unit Deployment Program (UDP). The UDP program deploys service members from the east and west coasts to Camp Schwab for six months. While here in Okinawa, service members perform their day-to-day jobs, participate in various exercises on and off the island, give back to their military and local communities on their time off, and more.
Last fall, USO Schwab welcomed a new team of volunteers from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, one of them being now Sergeant of Marines, Joebert Dela Cruz (Jeb). Jeb officially joined USO Schwab’s volunteer team back in November 2021. During his 6-month deployment, Jeb contributed 317.75 hours of service to our center and programs.
Since volunteering at USO Schwab, Jeb has helped impact the lives of our service members and their families over 60,000 times. He has selflessly dedicated his time to supporting 66 programs, including Storytime with Schwab, Family Dance, Community Relations Events, USO Excursions, First Friday Breakfast, Monday Morning Grind, Tune-Up Tuesday Programs, and Center Operations. Jeb additionally assisted with recruitment, training, and retention of volunteers.
Jeb significantly impacted USO Schwab’s programming as he provided consistency, stepped up to ensure volunteer coverage was secured, and kept morale high throughout various transitions. Provided the number of hours and impact Jeb made on our team, he qualified and earned a Gold Presidential Service Award. This achievement honors an individual’s service that positively impacts communities and inspires others to do the same.
While away from home, Jeb tried to make his fellow service members feel at home when at the USO or participating in a program by never breaking his big smile. Jeb’s commitment and hard work later earned him the title of USO Schwab’s Volunteer of the Quarter for Winter of 2022.
Maintaining focus and commitment while on deployment and missing the birth of a child is a challenge many service members face while here on deployment. Being away from his family, Jeb has faced many obstacles, such as the birth of his baby daughter. Jeb’s wife, Jessica Dela Cruz, gave birth to their baby daughter back home while he was in Okinawa. Jeb stayed connected and remained in good spirits to overcome the challenge of not being there. Jeb participated in our first UDP Baby Spritz, conversed with other expectant dads, and built lasting bonds between his USO team & fellow service members. Jeb additionally found comfort in having the opportunity to volunteer and make use of his time to help pass the time more quickly so that he may return home.
Fortunately for us, Jeb’s return to the states did not mean an end to his volunteering and ties to USO Schwab. Earlier this month, our team had the pleasure of welcoming not only Jeb back to Camp Schwab but also his wife Jessica and daughter Eliyanna as they relocated to Okinawa on military orders.
“You would be surprised when life brings you back full circle. I was deployed to Camp Schwab from late 2021 to early 2022 and met great people I now consider family, especially in the USO. Now I am back on the island with my wife and 6-month-old daughter and could never be more excited for the families to be together”, USO Volunteer Sergeant Joebert Dela Cruz.
“Getting to experience Okinawa alone is one thing, but experiencing it with my family is everything. My daughter will grow up in a unique culture, and the family can explore the island’s wonders. I am excited and thrilled for the family to live, laugh, and love here in Okinawa!” Sergeant Dela Cruz added.
USO Schwab says see you later to volunteers quite often. The opportunity to welcome back a volunteer and his family is a full-circle experience worth highlighting. When USO Schwab had a chance to meet Jessica and Eliyanna, excitement was in the air. In a conversation with Jessica about what she is most excited about being together in Okinawa as a family, she said, “I am happy to be here now! I cannot wait for my baby to grow in Okinawa and cannot wait to explore this beautiful island.”
USO Schwab is genuinely thankful for Jeb and his efforts at USO Schwab. To the Dela Cruz family, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Okinawa, Camp Schwab, and USO Schwab.
To join our volunteer family or discover what is happening across USO Okinawa centers, visit Okinawa.USO.Org or find us on Facebook at USO Schwab.
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