Soccer: Bridging the language gap

by Sgt. Jessica Collins
U.S. Marine Corps

POHANG, GYEONGSANG, REPUBLIC OF KOREA -- Children cheer and jump as he walks onto the soccer field, his neon orange cleats gripping the turf. They eagerly race over for high-fives from one of their favorite coaches.

Lance Cpl. Jose Casias isn’t a famous soccer player, but the kids he volunteers to coach always greet him like one.

“This is my favorite part about volunteering,” said Casias, a bulk fuel specialist with Camp Mujuk Headquarters Logistics, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “I always smile a lot while I’m coaching. During the day everything starts to pile up, but when I’m here coaching I can just forget about everything else and go home happy.”

The Atlanta, Georgia, native started helping out once or twice a week, but the team loved him so much the head coach asked him to help during every practice.

“The more I can help out, the happier I am,” said Casias, a smile on his face. “When I was little, I didn’t have anybody to teach me how to play soccer. That pushes me to help the kids learn and make them better players.”

While most of the kids don’t speak English, that doesn’t stop Casias from communicating with them.

“I think soccer is a universal language,” said Casias passionately. “You don’t need to really say anything. Once you start kicking the ball around together, everybody just understands each other.”

Casias’ zeal for volunteering doesn’t stop with soccer. He teaches English classes at different grade schools and kindergartens, as well as participating in clean ups throughout the community near Camp Mujuk.

“My favorite part about volunteering is that I get to learn more about the culture,” said Casias thoughtfully. “South Korea is a new culture for the Marines stationed out here. To me, it’s really interesting and I love learning about it.”

Casias has plans to bring new volunteer opportunities to help bring the military and local community around Camp Mujuk even closer together.

“I just love helping people,” said Casias enthusiastically. “I’m going to keep volunteering with the community until I leave. The people of South Korea are really special to me.”

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