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Midshipmen to help clean up, honor 9/11 victims and military

National day of service is a way of giving back to community

By Nancy Jones Bonbrest, Special to the Baltimore Sun

4:58 PM EDT, September 10, 2011

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In an effort to honor those who lost their lives during the attacks of Sept. 11, U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen will take part today in the second annual Project Green: 9/11 Day of Service & Remembrance.

The event is organized by the Volunteer Center for Anne Arundel County as a way to honor the victims of the attacks as well as the Marylanders who have died in service to the country. It's also a way to give back by cleaning up the shoreline at Jonas Green Park in Annapolis.

As many as 50 midshipmen are expected at the event, which begins at noon with an opening ceremony at the Maryland World War II Memorial on Ritchie Highway overlooking Jonas Green Park.

"The midshipmen are all about service to the nation," said Miriam Stanicic, community relations director for the United States Naval Academy. "It comes naturally to these young leaders to engage in service."

Many of the midshipmen attending the event participate in the Naval Academy's Midshipman Action Group or MAG, an organization dedicated to volunteering. The academy estimates that 40 percent of midshipmen participated in some form of volunteer service over the past year, and members of the brigade contributed more than 20,000 hours of community service.

Stanicic said the idea for Project Green came from the desire to honor those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks. The Naval Academy will also hold a private, in-house commemorative service.

"I think everyone knew we needed to do something to remember and recognize the day," said Stanicic. "But not just to remember, but to also give back and do good."

Lt. Cmdr. Brian Sinclair, a military instructor in aerospace engineering at the Naval Academy, is the officer representative for MAG. A Navy pilot and graduate of the academy, Sinclair was on an aircraft carrier called to immediately respond on Sept. 11. He also lost two academy mates at the Pentagon on Sept. 11. He hopes the midshipmen leave the day of service inspired.

Sept. 11 "was obviously very tragic. But I was impressed to see how the nation reacted," said Sinclair. "The resiliency of the United States is that we had to deal with the loses, but from there we rallied."

The Navy, added Sinclair, has provided missions of humanitarian service in the aftermath of natural disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti.

"I want the Mids to understand that mission," he said. "When they become officers, they can take that mission to the fleet."

Kara Yingling, a senior midshipman and president of MAG, said she was looking forward to volunteering.

"I think it's a beautiful thing we're doing," she said. "A lot of memorial services are happening, but it's nice to give back. To plant that seed and inspire other people."

Yingling grew up in Pennsylvania, only about 30 minutes from where the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed 10 years ago.

"It's great to remember but we're moving forward as well," added Yingling. "I think that's what America is about, moving forward, adapting, overcoming."

The service project is expected to draw about 100 volunteers.

Cleanup work will take place at the both the World War II Memorial and Jonas Green Park, located at the foot of the Naval Academy Bridge.

Fay Mauro, executive director of the Volunteer Center For Anne Arundel County, said the effort involves the collaboration of several organizations. Joining with the midshipmen was a no-brainer.

"It just seemed like such a natural fit," said Mauro. "There's a depth of commitment from these men and women as they begin their service to our country. It wouldn't be the same without them."

Using both the World War II Memorial and Jonas Green Park was the perfect combination.

"We were looking at honoring both the sacrifice made, but also how we can inspire community service today," she said. "So we wanted to find a location where we could do both. We wanted to think about 9/11 but tie it in with service to our communities."

The event is part of the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup, the world's largest volunteer effort for ocean health. For more information, visit volunteerannearundel.org.