Donald V. Esmond is currently a senior advisor to Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) President and COO Jim Lentz. Esmond spent five years in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving as captain, naval aviator, and helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Esmond is serving in his second term as a director to the board of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.
On June 19, Cpl. Kyle Carpenter became only the second living Marine to receive the nation’s highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for heroic actions in the global war on terrorism. During a firefight in Afghanistan in 2010, the then 21-year-old lance corporal threw himself on a Taliban grenade to protect another Marine, Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio. Both men were seriously wounded by the blast. It’s a miracle that Carpenter, now medically retired, is even alive to receive the medal. Of the 13 Medals of Honor earned in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, four went to service members who threw themselves on a grenade to save others. Carpenter is the only one of the four to survive such a selfless act. And only the quick actions of his fellow Marines and the incredible efforts of U.S. military medical personnel kept his grievous wounds from being fatal too.
When asked to explain why he did it, Carpenter said, “As Marines, it’s drilled into us … to take care of fellow Marines.” It is actions and answers like that that make me proud to be a Marine. It’s also that commitment to take care of fellow Marines and their families that makes me proud to be involved in the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. And it’s Toyota’s support for the MCSF that makes me proud of my long association with the company.
I had the privilege of meeting Cpl. Carpenter with my wife, Cheryl, and 12-year-old grandson, Jake, at a reception honoring Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel held by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C.
Toyota has been a strong supporter of the Scholarship Foundation since 2004, beginning with an endowment of $1.65 million to provide 16 annual scholarships of $5,000 each. Like other MCSF scholarships, these scholarships go to the children of Marines and Navy corpsmen who serve with them, with special attention to the children of those who were killed or wounded in action, or have demonstrated financial need.
Now, I’m proud to say, Toyota has stepped up again. On June 26, the company announced a new, $1.35-million donation to the Scholarship Foundation, to be delivered in phases over the next six years. As with all donations to the MCSF, every dollar will be used for scholarships or scholarship program support. This new donation will pay for 200-300 scholarships over the course of six years, depending on the size of each student’s award.
Toyota announced its latest donation at a MCSF dinner held by Gen. Amos and his wife, Bonnie, at their home to thank the Scholarship Foundation for supporting the sons and daughters of Marines.
In accepting Toyota’s donation, Margaret B. Davis, president and CEO of the MCSF, said, “Marine and Navy corpsmen make legendary sacrifices every day. Sending their children to college shouldn’t be one of them. Toyota’s expanded commitment will help ensure that the Scholarship Foundation can continue to award a scholarship to every eligible child who applies.”
These scholarships are an investment, not only in the children of Marines, but also in the future of the nation. Roughly half of the MCSF recipients are the first person in their families to go to college, and more than three-quarters of them go on to graduate.
Three MCSF scholarship recipients were honored by Toyota during a special event on June 26 aboard the aircraft carrier-museum USS Midway in San Diego to mark the donation.
Scholarship recipient Andrew Coba is the son of Capt. Javier Coba, USMC. When Andrew was three years old, his father came to the United States, enlisted in the Marine Corps and gained his citizenship. Capt. Coba later moved his family to the United States and was commissioned an officer. Andrew credits his father, who has served for 18 years, for his drive to succeed. Both Andrew and his sister Amy, also a Scholarship Foundation scholarship recipient, are working hard to meet the high-bar their father has set.
Scholarship recipients Elleine Sanchez and Ellysa Aquino are the daughters of Gunnery Sgt. Pedro Aquino, USMC. They credit him for their commitment to education and their drive to succeed. Gunnery Sgt. Aquino came to the United States from El Salvador as a young man and enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school. He has served for nearly 20 years, including five combat deployments. He is battling post-traumatic stress and with the support of the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Battalion has learned to cope with his ailment.
Scholarships are just one way we can give back to these families who sacrifice so much for our country.
In addition to serving as a director of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, I’m also co-chair of the Veteran Employment Advisory Council for “Hiring Our Heroes,” comprised of more than 30 of America’s largest employers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation launched Hiring Our Heroes in 2011 to help veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses find meaningful employment. Hiring Our Heroes and Toyota then partnered to develop the Personal Branding Resume Engine to enable veterans to input information about their military experience and have that automatically translated into civilian skills in a professional résumé they can post on the site’s database for prospective employers to view. Hiring Our Heroes also conducts job fairs and offers mentoring.
Unemployment and underemployment among those who have sacrificed so much to keep us safe since 9/11 is significantly higher than the overall civilian rate. We need to do all we can to enable these great Americans to share in the American dream.
As part of my involvement with Hiring Our Heroes, I’ve had the privilege of working with Sgt. Dakota Meyer, the first living Marine to receive the Medal of Honor during the global war on terrorism. In 2009, while serving in Afghanistan, Meyer repeatedly exposed himself to intense enemy fire to rescue members of his unit who were caught in a murderous ambush.
Dakota continues to serve and he has the same passion I have to help our veterans, who have sacrificed so much to defend our country’s freedom, find equal employment. Dakota works with Hiring Our Heroes, speaking at military bases and job fairs, to ensure our troops understand that the unique skills and leadership they bring to the workplace are exactly what employers are looking for.
I’m proud to know an outstanding American like Dakota Meyer.
I’m proud of my involvement with Hiring Our Heroes and the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.
And I’m proud to be a Marine.
I urge everyone to take inspiration from the words and deeds of Kyle Carpenter and Dakota Meyer and support efforts to help our veterans and their families.
Photo Caption: Don Esmond, his wife, Cheryl, and his grandson, Jake, meet with Medal of Honor winner Cpl. Kyle Carpenter at a reception held by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C.