PATTAYA, Kingdom of Thailand --
Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit took time out of their liberty period to help clear brush at a home for the elderly and till the land at an orphanage Feb. 22, after completing the multilateral exercise Cobra Gold 2012.
The first volunteer event involved Marines and Sailors of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st MEU, removing brush and undergrowth from the perimeter of the home for the elderly.
The Marines were clearing the brush to help prevent fire ants from entering the facility and to allow more sunlight to shine through. The size and placement of the brush allowed the ants to climb them and enter through the windows.
As the BLT 1/4 Marines and Sailors worked to safeguard the elderly from their fire ant nuisance, Marines of Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU, were hard at work cultivating land at a local child protection and development center.
The CLB 31 Marines spent hours removing rocks and tilling designated patches of land that the center will later use for gardens.
“They needed some help tilling some land out here for their gardens, so we are out here getting it done.,” said Sgt. Vernon L. Cherry, a section chief with CLB-31, 31st MEU. “It’s hot, hard work, and some of our hands are bleeding, but we are all happy to be doing it.”
Marines from both events believed that a lot was accomplished in the short time they had, and enjoyed being able to interact with the residents after the work was completed.
“The whole thing went great,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew Howell, a field artillery fire direction controlman with Battery L, BLT 1/4, 31st MEU and volunteer at the home for the elderly. “We did some physical work then got to interact with the residents. It was a great experience, they really appreciated us being out here and I was glad to be able to help them.”
The Marines and Sailors weren’t the only ones who appreciated the day’s interaction, as staff members from the child protection and development center expressed their appreciation near the end of the visit.
“Just by visiting, the children know they are loved,” said Scheree Wilkie, a volunteer and guest coordinator for the child protection and development center. “The children all came off the streets, so your presence here and your help really makes a difference in their lives.”
For many of the participants, these community relations projects are the first they have been able to be a part of. For those who have volunteered before, being able to help the less fortunate continues to be a very personal and fulfilling part of their life.
“While on the last project I was shocked to hear about what some of the kids had been through. You hear about some of it on the news, but it really doesn’t hit home until you actually see it for yourself,” said Cherry. “I have kids, so when I see a kid having tough times, if we can do things to help them, then I am all for it. These events are very fulfilling for me and I could see myself going on every other community relations project that comes up.”
Cobra Gold 2012 demonstrates the resolve of the U.S. and participating nations to increase interoperability and promote security and peace throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and remains the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.