SUBIC BAY, Republic of the Philippines --
“Welcome to our home, welcome to our school” was the song the students of Gordon Heights, an elementary school near Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, sang as Marines and Sailors deployed with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit walked through its gates. The troops were warmly welcomed with smiles and shouts from nearly 600 Filipino students, anxious to shake hands and talk to the service members.
“I like the Marines that come to my school,” said Cian Kyla, a 9-year-old, fourth-grader at Gordon Heights. “Having the Marines at my school makes me feel safe and I smile when they are around.”
After unloading a truck full of boxes of clothing, toys and painting supplies, the Marines began painting a newly built classroom the school will use to teach the students home economics. Marines and Sailors then spent the day interacting with the children.
“It was a great experience and I felt really good about the time we were able to spend with them,” said Seaman Ky Amos, a U.S. Navy Corpsman with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU. “My favorite part of our visit was getting to talk to the kids and visiting with them in their classrooms.”
The children asked service members how old they were and where they were from in the states. The volunteers asked the children about their favorite subjects in school and some of the things they enjoyed learning about. A few of the fourth and fifth grade students even had camera phones and were eager to take pictures with the Marines and Sailors.
“Although the time spent with the students was short, it will always be remembered,” said Nilda Quitaneg, principal of Gordon Heights. “We are lucky to have met people like you, with such kind hearts, that truly care for our children.”
While deployed in the Philippines, Marines and Sailors with the 31st MEU conducted ten other community relations projects, four medical and dental assistance projects and also built a two-room school for an impoverished area near Ternate.