No one asked him to help. Certainly no one is paying him for his efforts.
Retired Marine Cpl. Lewis Alston simply did what so many who’ve served in the military have spent their years doing: He saw a need and filled it.
Alston drove past Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, last year and was unnerved.
“I saw how some of the children were trying to cross and the traffic didn’t stop for them and I said, ‘Holy cow, somebody should be here to help them get across’ because I didn’t see a crossing guard,” the 63-year-old told LancasterOnline.
So the Lititz resident became that crossing guard on the very first day of this school year.
Last Monday, Alston — also a chaplain for the Lancaster County Marine Corps League — had been at a funeral service and was still wearing his dress uniform and still noticed no crossing guard at one busy intersection, WRIC-TV reported.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be a golden opportunity for the students to see a marine help them cross the street?’” Alston, who was wounded in Vietnam, noted to the station.
Now every morning and every afternoon Alston shows up at the intersection in his fancy blues and makes sure elementary schoolers get across the street safely.
Alston added that he doesn’t try to stop or block traffic, WRIC added, but will ask cars to stop and cross the street with groups of students.
“It’s just heavy in my heart to have the students have to deal with this,” he told the station.
There’s no paid crossing guard at Alston’s intersection because of limited resources, Lancaster Chief of Police Keith Sadler told WRIC.
“There are hundreds of intersections that just can’t be covered,” Sadler told the station. “We’re short crossing guards now, and it’s not for lack of wanting.”
But Sadler knows Alston well and has no intentions of asking him to stop volunteering, particularly because it isn’t illegal.
Mostly, though, the chief is heartened by the message he’s sending.
“I think the marine uniform was a great idea,” Sadler told WRIC. “He’s a very honorable man. You almost wish more people would take that much interest in a community.”
Most appreciate are parents, students, and even drivers who Alston asks to stop.
“The students saluted me,” Alston told WRIC. “They say, ‘Thank you sir.’ One woman in her car said, ‘Thank you for your service.’”
Moving forward Alston told the station that he and other veterans he’s friends with are looking to team up at other unmanned intersections.
“In a small little town, we all look out for each other,” Alston told WRIC. “I will stay there until this is worked out. If I can be there, I will be there.”
News of Alston’s efforts have made it out of Lancaster — he was featured on Good Morning America on Wednesday.
Here’s the clip: