HANNIEL CRISTIAN ACADAMY, Republic of the Philippines --
Children gathered around the Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, eager to get a glimpse of the volunteers that would be spending the day with them.
For many of the children, this would be their first glimpse of a U.S. Marine. Hesitant to talk to them at first, the children shyly approached, but within minutes the children had forgotten their fears and were playing tag, sports and talking with the Marines.
Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in a community relations event, Oct. 29, at a local orphanage. The event took place upon the conclusion of the Amphibious Landing Exercise in the Republic of the Philippines.
“There are about 25 orphans here, and 48 Marines that are interacting with all of them,” said Cmdr. Ray Bailey, a chaplain with the 31st MEU. “This particular project has a history with the MEU. When a local volcano erupted and buried everything under a few feet of ash. It was the Marines that came removed all the ash so its fun to come back here and keep a good relationship with them.”
During the event, the children played songs they had been practicing together for the Marines, as a way of thanking them for visiting and helping them.
The kids benefited from the volunteers’ hard work and were able to see the help Marines and Sailors are capable of providing, but the volunteers themselves benefited from it too.
“I think they all gain joy and a great feeling of satisfaction,” said Bailey. “Seeing kids that are far less fortunate than we were when we grew up, and getting an appreciation of how they were blessed with a family and not growing up as an orphan.”
Throughout the day, the Marines completed a lot of work, painting both the inside and outside of two classrooms for the orphanage, and a roof of another building to prevent it from rusting. Besides the hard work, a lot of fun was also had.
“My favorite part of this was playing basketball with the kids,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Logbeck, a Marine Headquarters and Service Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, 31st MEU.”I also had a lot of fun helping paint, and just putting a smile on the kids’ faces and seeing them have fun.”
When it was time for the Marines and Sailors to leave, most had made new friends, and even the children did not want them to go.
“The kids were all excited to meet the Marines,” said Joel Alviar, the director of the orphanage. “Some of the kids say they want to become Marines now.”
PHIBLEX is an opportunity to conduct training which is vital to maintaining the readiness and interoperability of the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines military forces.
The 31st MEU is operating in support of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade for the exercise, is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the United States’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.