CAMP KINSER, Okinawa, Japan --
CAMP KINSER, Okinawa, Japan -- “I knew I was going to give it away,” said Gunnery Sgt. Malina Shippen about the prize she won during the Jingle Bell Fun Run and Games on December 6, 2019. “Everything I won I gave away.”
To raise morale during the holiday season, 3rd Marine Logistics Group units host an annual Jingle Bell Fun Run and Games for their Marines and Sailors. This year, Shippen, a supply operations chief with Supply Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd MLG, joined 40 other Marines and Sailors in a game of rock-paper-scissors in hopes of winning a $1,000 voucher from Delta Airlines.
Shippen started winning her matches and eventually found herself in the final rock-paper-scissors round against Pfc. Leidy Becerra. At the conclusion of the exciting round, Shippen became the Jingle Bell Games rock-paper-scissors champion and won the $1000 Delta Airline voucher prize.
However, Shippen did not personally walk away with the prize. Immediately after winning, she selflessly gifted her prize to Becerra.
“I was talking to her in between rounds, and she was just so happy and giddy,” remembered Shippen. “I asked her if she was going to go home this year for the holidays and she said, ‘No, I’m going to go home if I get the ticket!’ She was just so excited. I knew then I was going to give it to her if I won.”
Shippen explained that she grew up very close to her big family, which included six brothers and sisters, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She felt lucky that her first duty station was Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and was relatively close to home. She would go home frequently for the holidays, and it was a very happy time of year for her.
“The first time I got to go home I had just gotten my car and I was so scared to take the freeway, so my sergeant at the time helped me with gas money and driving because he also lived close by,” she said. “When we got to his house, I recognized [it was] my aunt’s house. It turned out he was family! Christmas time is a very magical time of year. Christmas is my thing.”
When Shippen was a sergeant she was stationed in Twentynine Palms, California. It was the holiday season and she experienced her first act of kindness. She explained this as ‘where it all started’.
“I was at Walmart with my child, she was about a year old. I was juggling her and everything around, then there was this random guy, who was just so nice,” she said. “He pushed the cart for me, he was making my daughter happy, and then when we got to the register he paid for my stuff! At first, I felt bad. I didn’t want to look broke. So I asked him [if that was why] and he said, ‘No, it’s nice to see a young lady taking care of her kid and I just want to do something special for you.’ I asked him if there was anything I could give him. He told me, ‘No, just pay it forward.’”
After 18 years of service, Shippen explained that during the holiday season her concern for Marines rises. She emphasized the pain of family traditions being broken.
“When [junior Marines] get to their [first] duty station and they don’t know if they can go back home to those traditions, I’m sure they miss it,” she said. “I know it hurts them.” Shippen expressed her experience missing out on traditions with her own family and how it made her feel further away from them.
“I know I’m okay,” she said. “I got my daughter and my cat. For these junior Marines - who do they have? Other Marines.” She suggested that everyone should be more cognizant of their peers’ feelings and look out for one another.
Shippen’s daughter, at just eleven years old, has taken her mother’s selflessness to the next level.
“I’m glad it rubbed off on my daughter,” said Shippen. “She collects these little dolls and she doesn’t really play with them. She keeps them all in boxes. So this year, she wants to give all the boxes away to less fortunate kids.”
To Shippen, Christmas time is ‘truly magical’. She believes in spreading joy and looking out for those around her. In her experience, paying good deeds forward is infectious.
When Shippen gave her voucher to Becerra, the Delta crew found it so heartwarming, they presented her with a $500 voucher.
“What comes around goes around,” said Shippen.
“That’s the magic to it,” she said. “Once you take that extra step and extra effort to do something for someone else, it truly changes you as a person.”