MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT, Parris Island, S.C. -- From behind his gold leaves, crisp cammies and commanding appearance, your first approach might be a bit apprehensive - even intimidating, but as a smile breaks through his military demeanor it's a dead give away - he's nothing but heart.
From his service to America in the world's finest Corps to volunteering with local Beaufort county schools, it's evident Maj. Don M. Thanars, Depot provost marshall, dedicates his life to helping the community and its children.
Because of Thanars' commitment to the community, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is recognizing him with the NAACP's Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award to be presented to him at the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs dinner in Baltimore, July 11.
"I've always figured you can either be a part of the problem or a part of the solution," said Thanars. "So I've dedicated myself to bettering the community and helping children to know what they can do with their future."
Thanars came to Parris Island in August 1997 and has since become a valuable asset to the local military and civilian community, according to Col. Bonnie Robison, H&S Bn. commander.
"Major Thanars epitomizes those qualities inherent to outstanding citizenship," said Robison. "His efforts as a volunteer play an integral part in the success of many local organizations endeavors and help to perpetuate a positive image of the Marine Corps in the surrounding community."
Perhaps one of his most significant contributions lies in his actions in coordinating the Coming of Age Program. The scope of the program is designed to better equip and prepare the fifth-grade male students at St. helena Elementary School in making good decisions as they move in to middle school. Thanars has 15 young men currently involved in this program. Each month a group activity is held and, in the past, has included a visit to a local retirement home, discussion group sessions, church visits and other community involvement. Upcoming activities include a discussion on Martin Luther King Jr., visiting a college and a "boy's night out." The culminating event for the year will be a formal program held at St. Helena Elementary in May 2000. In addition to these events, he also initiated a quarterly newsletter of program activities to keep the members and their parents involved and informed.
Locally he serves as president of Xi Gamma Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity which, under his leadership, has supported the Adopt-a-Family Program mentoring and doing home repairs for local families. Through his involvement with the fraternity he has devoted his time to ensure individuals exercise their civil rights by encouraging them to be a registered voter and getting actively involved in local, state and regional political issues that affect them.
He is also actively involved with the annual Fatherhood Summit, co-sponsored with the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. The forum is designed to bring fathers, mothers and educators together in order to provide essential information on proper parenting techniques and methods to help empower children to reach their full potential.
For the past two years, Thanars has chaired the Tri-Command Martin Luther Kind Jr./Black History Month Committee. This group of Marines, Sailors, civlians and local community members has sponsored a variety of diverse, educational and entertaining programs that teaches minority and non-minority members about each other's cultures.
Thanars supports integration and promotion of minorities and women within the services by his participation in the Montford Point Marine Association. This veteran's organization ensures the legacy of the first black Marines is taught to new generations of Marines through Professional Military Education with recruits and local community events such as Veteran's Day programs. In addition, he has also been actively engaged in PME sessions and other initiatives aimed at improving female Marines competiveness through assignment to leadership roles and encouraging involvement in officer programs.
Under his leadership, the Martin Luther King Jr./Black History Month Committee has provided scholarships to graduating seniors at three local high schools. These seniors compete for these scholarships by submitting a package to the committee that details their academic, community and church involvement.
Thanars further fosters understanding between minority and non-minority members by his position on the Beaufort Chiefs of Police Association. This group meets monthly in an open forum to discuss issues of mutual interests in order to better understand the concerns of all members of both the military and Beaufort community.
Thanars is also involved in numerous community programs to include the Keep America Beautiful Program which helps control the litter on State Highway 170 newar the Broad River. He has participated in the program once a month for the past two and a half years.
Additionally, he spearheaded a debutante ball in which formal seminars were conducted to educate young female students in order to provide career alternatives, improve self-esteem and self-respect.
"Through his varied community and military leadership, Thanars has established himself as a person who simply gets things done," states the recommendation prepared to help nominate him for the award. "He fervently believes that all persons are created equal and that each should be afforded the same opportunities to reach their dreams and goals. The Beaufort Community, Tri-Command area and the Marine Corps are extremely fortunate to have a person of Maj. Thanars' drive, determination and caliber. Major Thanars' selection as the 2000 recipient of the Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award can only 'raise the bar' for future nominees."
Thanars has a Bachelors in Business Administration from Texas Southern University in Houston, Tx., a Masters of Arts and a Masters of Business Administration, both from Webster university in St. Louis, Miss.
The Houston, Tx. native is married to Dinah Cousin with whom he has two daughters; Jade, 12, and Michaela, 4.
"Major Thanars has established himself as a leader, mentor and role model who constantly accepts the challenge of key leadership positions in which he can set the example for others to follow," said Robison.