Born in Hopewell, Va., Everett Gilliam, learned about volunteerism from his father, a retired Army man, volunteer pastor and longtime Mason who exemplified the motto, “Service before self.”
Gilliam, over his 22-year career, has used his father’s example to help others. “It just carried on with me throughout my lifetime,” the 39-year-old sergeant major said.
Last year, through Operation Goodwill, Gilliam helped deliver thousands of household items to families in need.
Gilliam volunteered 450 hours, including many Saturday mornings, when he assembled volunteers to pack and box donated goods.
His volunteerism has made him a four-time recipient of the DoD Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal — “a testament to [his] lifetime dedication to community service,” wrote Lt. Col. Ricardo Miagany, the commander of 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines, among those who nominated Gilliam for Marine of the Year. “He has made a tremendous positive impact in the lives of those around him,” he added.
Master Sgt. Marshall Alexander Jr. wrote in his nomination that Gilliam “continues to set the example for others to emulate,” and noted his involvement in the weekly Operation Goodwill projects, which “provided 2,100 boxes of shoes, toys, clothing and linen to families in Japan, Philippines and Thailand.”
Even when deployed, Gilliam finds opportunities to stay involved in local community projects — and he’s never short of having Marines raise their hands to volunteer and join him.
“A lot of them do it just because they want to do it,” he said.
While on a break from training last year, for example, Gilliam encouraged Marines and sailors to volunteer their time at a Korean orphanage.
Gilliam, whose daughter is about to start college, said he likes to set the example for his young Marines. “They keep an eye on me. They see what Big Poppy — that’s what they call me — is doing, because I’m always volunteering for something,” he said. “I believe in this. If I have time to do it, there’s no excuse not to do it.”
While on Okinawa, Gilliam fills his off-duty time volunteering and leading his Mason chapter and looking for new projects to help those in need.
“If I can dream it, we can do it,” he said. “Lead from the front.” His recent work as a Shriner has included mentoring young people, including boys and girls participating in the island’s Young Marines program, and raising diabetes awareness and prevention, with a focus toward young people and the African-American community. Gilliam also has taken on the national fraternal organization’s push to raise money to fund scholarships, “a big drive in the last couple of years,” he said.
While he expects to leave Okinawa next year with new orders in hand, Gilliam has no plans to stop helping others. “Wherever I go,” he said, “I plan to do the same thing.”