ROCKHAMPTON, QUEENSLAND, Australia --
A group of Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Sailors, soldiers, and Australian service members helped restore a piece of history which was left behind by those that served during WWII.
The St. Christopher’s Chapel was built in 1943 and provided religious services to more than 70,000 service members based around Rockhampton during WWII.
When U.S. service members departed Australia after the war ended, the chapel slowly deteriorated. Since then, people have stepped in to ensure its survival, including current and former service members.
On July 26, a group of U.S. and Australian volunteers raised their hands to join together and volunteered their time to do their part in ensuring the chapel’s survival.
The project consisted of chipping old paint off the church, pressure-washing the entire structure, and repainting it.
“It feels good to have them help us out,” said Robert Liecht, a native of Australia that devotes much of his time to maintaining the chapel. “It makes me happy knowing they still take an interest in the chapel.”
For many, this project was the first time they had had a chance to volunteer while serving in the military.
“This is my first year in the Army, my first deployment, and my first time volunteering,” said Pfc. Tanginikia L. Fields, a soldier with the 57th Transportation Battalion. “I love painting, and I wanted to learn more about the chapel, it has a really intresting history.”
As the day came to an end and the service members began to clean up the work area, many felt a deep sense of accomplishment, and gratification.
“I enjoyed the work,” said Fields. “I really like the feeling afterwards of knowing I helped somebody and made them smile.”
In addition to restoring the church, the service members also helped strengthen the bond between Australia and the U.S.
“It’s always a good thing to maintain and build upon our ties to the Americans,” said Australian soldier Lieutenant Andrew B. Croft. “It is good to see that the community has such strong feelings about this place too, and I hope to be able to do something like this again.”
TS11 is the largest joint military exercise undertaken by the Australian Defence Force. Around 14,000 U.S. and 9,000 Australian personnel will participate. TS11 provides an opportunity to conduct operations in a combined and joint environment that will increase both countries’ bilateral war-fighting capabilities to respond to crisis and to provide humanitarian assistance.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.