A group of 15 Sailors from the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) joined students from Oak Park Elementary School and Music Conservatory in San Diego to celebrate Presidents Day at the school, Feb. 19.
Although a day after the actual federal holiday, Makin Island’s ceremonial color guard paraded the colors as other Sailors joined the school’s choir in singing the national anthem during a special Presidents Day program.
At the conclusion of the assembly, Makin Island Sailors divided into small groups to visit classrooms and mentor students.
“It was really powerful to see the cadets [honor guard] come with the flags and to have the Sailors singing with us,” said Pamela King, a third-grade teacher at the school. “It goes beyond the pledge in the classroom. Seeing the Sailors joining in with the students was very touching.”
King said most of the students do not know about the variety of occupations and job specialties available in the military. The ethnic, gender and job diversity of the group of Makin Island Sailors who volunteered made it easy for students to find a role model for the day.
“Most of the time the students only have images of military members that are over in the midst of the war, they don’t get to see all aspects of the military,” said King. “Being able to bring the military to our students is a key to educating them on the military.
“I love the excitement of the Sailors, you can tell that they want to be here and that they want to interact with our students,” said King. “We are really thankful for the partnership that we have with Makin Island, they always put smiles on our student’s faces.”
Sailors who attended the Presidents Day program said they were just as excited as the students about the visit.
“It’s important that we as Sailors go out into the community and visit so that people can see another side of the Navy,” said Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical) Fireman Kibrom Gebregziabher, assigned to Makin Island’s Engineering Department. “We get to show that we are not just service members, but also are good role models.”
While in the classroom, Gebregziabher said he used a map to show the students the countries he visited while on the most recent deployment.
“They were very eager to find out information about what I do in the Navy,” said Gebregziabher. “They showed a lot of interest in the stories I told about deployment and visiting foreign ports and learning about the culture.”
Although the students asked many questions about life in the military, Gebregziabher said he made sure that he pointed the students in the right direction for what they should focus on now.
“I placed a strong emphasis on staying focused in school, getting an education is very important,” said Gebregziabher. “The decisions you make at young ages in grade school affect your future. If the students start with good habits now, they will have the tools to be successful later.”
Oak Park is one of two San Diego area schools that benefit from Makin Island’s community outreach program. Makin Island volunteers also work closely with Willow Elementary School in nearby San Ysidro, Calif.
The ship’s commitment to schools in the local area, as well as other initiatives that seek to improve people’s lives, is a key component of the command philosophy.
The ship is currently undergoing a planned maintenance availability (PMA) at Naval Base San Diego. During this seven-month PMA period, Makin Island will receive numerous equipment upgrades, modernization, and general repairs. The PMA period will also ensure the ship will reach the full service life of at least 40 years.
Naval Today Staff, February 22, 2013