Sailors and Marines from USS Bataan (LHD 5) volunteered to pick oranges at the Palacio Nacional de Queleuz for the Banco Alimentar, a local food bank, near Lisbon.
“We were able to collect over 60 crates of oranges, which was approximately 900 kilos,” said Lt. Hardy Owens, a staff chaplain aboard Bataan. “The people there stated that we far exceeded their estimated projection.”
The service members were also treated to a free tour of the national palace and the chance to see and help falconry experts training hawks for future exhibition.
“Not only are you seeing a different side of whatever port you’re at, you have a chance to meet and work with the people there,” said Personnel Specialist 2nd Class Ahren Eisenmenger, from Crestwood, Ky. “You’re not just going there to buy drinks from them or pay them money for something and not really know what’s going on. You actually get to learn a little more about the city.”
Apart from the 19 Sailors and Marines at the palace, six others went to Lar Maria Droske, a convent near Lisbon, to help with gardening work and maintaining the grounds. The convent welcomes children and young women in residential settings and has the overall aim to promote academic and/or vocational training.
“Teenagers who live there come from difficult backgrounds and this convent was a blessing to them to help them back onto their feet,” said Owens. “They were extremely appreciative for our service.”
Community relation events, or COMRELs, give Sailors and Marines a chance to volunteer while on deployment or at homeports and provide a great opportunity to give back to the community.
“We exceeded the limit of volunteers for the COMREL in the first 40 minutes and had quite a few people who were interested that we had to say no to, but we encourage them to participate in upcoming COMRELs as they become available,” said Owens.
The U.S. Navy’s participation in community relation events help achieve its mission in projecting global force by promoting partnerships with other countries. It shows that a sincere interest in helping other countries and their people.
Press Release, March 5, 2014, 2014; Image: Wikimedia