BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND, Australia (August 5, 2009) – --
Residents of the Bluecare Wynnum Nursing Home received a helping hand from Marines and sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) during a community relations event on July 29.
The event was held to help build strong community relations between the Australian community and the U.S. military by allowing service members to help out with a little bit of cleaning around the nursing home.
“I volunteered for this event to give back to the community. The Australians have been really polite to us and I figured this would be a chance to return the favor,” said Lance Cpl. Israel B. Mora, a field wireman for the MEU. “This was an opportunity for us to see a part of the community we don’t always have a chance to experience.”
The 22 volunteers were quickly recognized at first glance by war veterans, who joined them during their breaks, eager to chat and share their own military history.
Ray H. Carr, a former British Royal Marine and a resident of the nursing home, called the Marines ‘leathernecks’ upon seeing them and quickly bonded with the group by bringing down World War II mementoes from his room to share with them.
Among the items the 87 year-old WWII veteran showed Marines was a frame with photos and newspaper clippings of his time as one of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s 36 bodyguards. Carr also shared with the Marines an exact copy of Japan’s surrender to the Allied Forces.
The volunteers quickly drew stares, smiles and friendly conversation from the nursing home’s curious residents as they moved about to accomplish the tasks they had been given by the staff. The jobs included helping decorate one of the resident’s gardens with some artful paintings, cleaning windows and other miscellaneous tasks throughout the home.
The volunteers and residents, entertained each other with stories, jokes and laughs while they talked about a variety of subjects ranging from one resident’s brief passing through New York in the 1940’s to another resident’s first three years in the nursing home that restored his ability to walk.
“It’s great to have these guys come visit as you get on in years. There comes a time in life when you have to admit defeat, but my life has been extended by a year or two because of the Marines coming here. They have been very nice, I never expected a fellow Marine to call me ‘sir’,” said Carr.
Lunch marked the beginning of the end for the Marines and sailors’ visit and while some joined their peers to eat, others went along with the residents to continue their conversations of past, present and future events.
The volunteers said their final farewells to the residents they had come to share a bond with as they prepared to board the shuttle back to the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).
“The visit inspired and invigorated residents, and the cleaning was something we weren’t able to afford, so the Marines really helped us out,” said Darren J. Louvensen, the service coordinator for the nursing home. “We’ve had five ships come through and by far the Marines have been the best behaved and had the most impact on the people here.”
MEU Marines and sailors are currently scheduled to return to Okinawa, Japan after finishing Exercise Talisman Saber 2009 (TS ’09) in Australia’s Shoal Water Bay Training Area.