Sailors from USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) volunteered at a local veterans’ home May 10.
Even though Stennis’ Sailors recently finished a seven-month deployment and are preparing to deploy again by year’s end, they volunteer their time each week to service projects in the local area.
Cmdr. Michael Greenwalt, Stennis’ command chaplain and head of Stennis’ Command Religious Ministries Department (CRMD), said these community relations projects (COMRELs) allow Stennis Sailors to grow new experiences and relationships with the community.
“It’s a tradition that military communities, and the Navy specifically, have a healthy relationship with the local community,” said Greenwalt.
Stennis’ CRMD organizes the community service projects, working with the community to put Sailors where help is needed. Each Thursday Sailors participate in various COMRELs throughout the local area, including stocking shelves and handing out food boxes at Bremerton Food Bank, helping restore a historic ferry at the Puget Sound Naval Museum and volunteering their time at the Retsil Veteran’s Home.
Greenwalt said that so many Sailors volunteer each week that they often don’t have enough slots.
“They want to be out there, so the command is meeting the Sailors’ demand,” said Greenwalt.
Capt. Ronald Reis, Stennis’ commanding officer, visited the veterans’ home Thursday to see firsthand the impact his Sailors are making on the everyday lives of the home’s residents. Sailors tend the grounds, do odd jobs throughout the facility and visit with the residents, often swapping stories about life in the military.
“Twice a week we have Sailors from John C. Stennis come out and they have an opportunity to interface with residents of the facility,” said Reis. “That ability to connect at that level between the residents and the Sailors is something of importance and significance to the local community and to John C. Stennis.”
Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class (SW/AW) Kenneth Hensley, one of the volunteers at the veterans’ home, said he finds volunteering rewarding and likes casting a positive light on the Navy’s presence here.
“We want the community to see that the Navy is a positive role model that wants to have a constructive impact on the local population,” said Hensley. “We want as much interaction as we can between the command and the local community.”
Since returning from deployment March 2, Stennis Sailors have provided more than 120 hours of service in and around the Kitsap Peninsula area.
Naval Today Staff, May 14, 2012; Image: navy