Sailors assigned to guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61) participated in a community relations (COMREL) project, April 7, during a port visit to Haifa, Israel.
Ramage Sailors volunteered at the Melav Retiree Center and Shelter in the Neve David neighborhood of Haifa, where they painted the interior of the building and performed general gardening in preparation for Passover.
“We are in the time of Passover and this is the time for renewing everything in your home,” said Yuda Mustachi, a local elder. “Old people cannot paint this shelter and the government does not have the money to maintain it.”
Realizing that maintaining the shelter is a difficult task for those who use it, Ramage Sailors stepped in to help.
“What we have here are people who try to maintain this shelter, but they are unable to paint the walls or move heavy objects like we can,” said Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 1st Class Shea E. Benitez.
Not only do COMRELs provide help for the local community, they also provide Sailors an opportunity to work together, building upon teamwork skills that will serve the crew when they are back out to sea.
“We really know how to bring a team together to help out the community,” said Benitez.
“We are very, very grateful because this shelter saves lives,” said Mustachi. “In the future, this shelter will save lives and it is important to preserve it.”
The center is currently used as a place for the elderly to congregate, but can also be used as a bomb shelter in time of war.
“I think this community relations project has a huge impact on the community,” said Lt. Allen Presser, the ship’s chaplain and event organizer. “This was a great opportunity to not only bless the lives of the elderly community, but also touch the hearts and lives of the entire Israeli community.”
Ramage, homeported in Norfolk, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts a full range of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation missions in concert with coalition, joint, interagency, and other parties in order to advance security and stability in Europe and Africa.
Press Release, April 11, 2014; Image: Wikimedia