FORT PICKETT, Va. --
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Miguel Sanchez sits down with his guitar inside a tent on Fort Pickett, Virginia. Instantly, a group of kids rush in and sit in a circle around him. Their excitement fills their faces with a visible joy, a cue for Sanchez to begin playing. As he strums his guitar, the kids watch in awe.
This is a recurring scene for Sanchez, a 23 year old San Diego, California, native and radio operator with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, as he has found a different way of connecting with Afghan individuals on Fort Pickett; playing music for the kids and families in the afternoons.
“The kids absolutely love it,” said Sanchez. “They love hearing it and they always form into a little group. They love seeing us up there playing songs for them.”
The idea came to him after a week of being in Fort Pickett, where his unit is currently serving as part of Task Force Pickett, in support of Operation Allies Welcome. He was asked by the Task Force’s Female Engagement Team to participate in movie nights for families. He used that opportunity to play music and get the kids engaged with a more interactive form of entertainment.
“They thought it would be great so we just rolled with it,” said Sanchez.
Sanchez did not originally travel with his guitar here and thus had to contact a group of his friends that had yet to travel from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, up to Fort Pickett to bring it with them. For the past month, he has played a couple of sessions a week in addition to his regular duties. Although communication with some of the Afghan individuals is a challenge due to the language barrier, he has used music as a way to connect with the guests.
“Music is a universal language,” he added, “they may not understand the words I sing to them, but they do understand the feelings behind them. I hope that one day when they hear these songs again, they will remember me.”
To Sanchez, the mission is about more than music. Sanchez’s unit is assigned to Task Force Pickett to support Afghan individuals through the resettlement process. To him, this assignment is greater than anything he could have imagined doing when he joined the Marine Corps.
“When I first got here, I was excited,” he said. “To be a part of Operation Allies Welcome and helping all of the Afghans coming to America to become American citizens, that’s history in the making. I honestly believe that this is some of the most important work that I will get to do.”