More than 1,500 Sailors assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) volunteered in seven different cities at more than 30 different community relations (COMREL) events, Sept. 20.
The COMREL projects ranged from building a home for Habitat for Humanity in Hampton, Va., to visiting local elementary and middle schools in Newport News to cleaning up beaches and parks in Virginia Beach, Va.
The all-day volunteer effort in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Yorktown, Portsmouth, Carrollton and Newport News was coordinated through Lincoln’s Religious Ministries Department while the Lincoln undergoes its refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) in Newport News.
“If we have an opportunity to give back to the community, to bring smiles to young faces and help out our local community,” said Capt. Karl Thomas, who greeted students as they arrived to Newsome Park Elementary School in Newport News. “It’s absolutely worth it and it’s the right thing to do.”
Newsome Park Elementary Principal Victor Martinez appreciated the support provided by Lincoln Sailors.
“Our kids benefit immensely from the Navy being here,” said Martinez. “The support given by the Navy will be reciprocated throughout the Hampton Roads community, and I think that’s a wonderful thing.”
USS Abraham Lincoln’s command chaplain Cmdr. Denis Cox coordinated the all-day COMREL reflected on the outreach these types of projects have on the local communities Sailors live in.
“This massive one-day volunteer outreach by Lincoln Sailors positively impacts the countless community members they will interact with today along with the communities at large,” said Cox.
One of those Sailors offering his assistance was Damage Controlman 3rd Class Evan Marshall who volunteered at the Hoffler Creek Wildlife Foundation in Portsmouth, Va. He reflected on the positive contributions Sailors make to the local communities through these types of COMRELs.
“I loved volunteering at this event,” said Marshall. “I got to serve my community in a great way. Community service is always a great thing.”
Damage Controlman 1st Class Narrean Brown also volunteered at Hoffler Creek Wildlife Foundation by cleaning an exhibit area.
“This is a really cool event, cleaning out a path for an exhibit to reopen,” said Brown. “Just getting out in the community and helping out encourages other Sailors to do the same.”
Portsmouth Mayor Kenneth Wright visited with Lincoln Sailors as they volunteered at Hoffler Creek Wildlife Foundation and Portsmouth City Park.
“The military is 48 percent of our economy in Hampton Roads,” said Wright. “To have this kind of outreach is extremely impressive.”
Doug Kennedy, superintendent, Parks Facilities and Landscape Services for the Newport News Ranger Station, felt the impact provided by Lincoln Sailors.
“We really appreciate the service that these Sailors are providing,” said Kennedy. “The Navy has always been a huge supporter of Hampton Roads and for the Lincoln as a whole to come out is simply amazing.”
For Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Joseph Arnold, the reason for volunteering at Nike Park in Carrollton, Va., was not only to support the local communities, but also to provide mentorship opportunities to junior Sailors within his department.
“It helps build camaraderie between senior and junior Sailors,” said Arnold.
Machinist’s Mate 2rd Class Darrin Door, who serves as a COMREL represenstative at the command, echoed Arnold’s sentiment that COMRELs provide opportunities to learn about leadership.
“It is a great opportunity for me to learn how to manage people and learn leadership,” said Door.
Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Patrick Lybarger provided volunteer assistance at Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton, Va., and reflected on what COMREL service means to him.
“Giving back to the community is important because it brings everyone together and that’s what it’s all about,” said Lybarger.
Angela Henery, Asset Manager at Fort Monroe Authority, appreciated the volunteerism by Lincoln Sailors to preserve the historic Fort Monroe site.
“It is fantastic and an amazing opportunity for Lincoln Sailors to come here to help preserve Fort Monroe,” said Henery. “I couldn’t be prouder to have volunteers to help out.”
Lincoln Sailors have made a significant impact in the Hampton Roads region since the aircraft carrier arrived in Norfolk in August 2012, contributing more than 5,000 volunteer hours at various COMREL projects.
“By providing these types of volunteer opportunities during RCOH our Sailors are afforded the opportunity to help the communities where they live. In return, communities have realized the beneficial role of the Navy and Abraham Lincoln Sailors’ volunteerism,” said Cox.
Lincoln Sailors volunteered at the following locations in Hampton Roads:
- In Hampton: Sandy Bottom Nature Park; John B. Cary Elementary School; Veterans Administration Medical Center; Fort Monroe; Hampton Food Bank; Bluebird Gap Farm; Bethel Park; Habitat for Humanity; Spratley Gifted Center; Buckroe Beach; Animal Aid Society; Salvation Army; Kecoughtan High School;- In Newport News: Newsome Park Elementary School; Virginia Living Museum; Habitat for Humanity; Newport News Park; Five Loves Food Pantry, and Newport News Ranger Station;
- In Norfolk: USS Wisconsin; Union Missions Ministries; Foodbank of the Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore; Norfolk Botanical Gardens; Ronald McDonald House; Norfolk Zoo;
- In Virginia Beach, Va.: Virginia Beach; Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center;
- In Portsmouth: Hoffler Creek Wildlife Foundation and City Park;
- In Carrollton: Nike Park;
- In Yorktown: Yorktown Beach.
Lincoln is currently undergoing RCOH at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.
Lincoln is the fifth ship of the Nimitz class to undergo a RCOH, a major life-cycle milestone. Once RCOH is complete, Lincoln will be one of the most modern and technologically advanced Nimitz-class aircraft carriers in the fleet and will continue to be a vital part of the nation’s defense.
Press Release, September 23, 2013; Image: US Navy