BRISBANE, Queensland, Australia -- As the bus rolled to a stop, the Marines and Sailors filed off and surveyed the massive complex that lay before them. Their mission was clear and none would leave until they saw it through. Today, the small force would serve as a needed distraction.
Twelve Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit joined 22 crew members of the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) to visit the Mater’s Rehabilitation Center and Mater’s Children Center here, July 10.
The “Blue-Green” team set out to brighten the spirits of the patients in the hospital by lending an ear to the elderly in the rehab center and playing with the kids in the children’s center.
“When you come to a hospital every day, you go through the same routine,” said Margaret Wilson, the Mater Foundation Liaison. “The visit from the U.S. Marines and Sailors provided a bit of a spark to their day.”
The group started the day by sharing morning tea with the older patients. The service members were provided a sampling of popular Australian foods, including: vegemite sandwiches, lamingtons (small cakes with chocolate and coconut), and an assortment of pastries.
Although the Marines and Sailors thoroughly enjoyed the array of snacks, most gathered much more enjoyment from the company.
“The best part of my day was sitting and listening to Joyce talk about her life and family,” said Cpl. Caleb E. Haynes, an assistant team leader for Company E., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st MEU, and a native of Laurel, Md. “She had so much to tell and it seemed to make her day.”
After saying their goodbyes to their new friends in the rehab center, the group moved on to the children’s center to meet a diverse group of youngsters battling illness. The crew of the USS BHR handed out small toys to the children, while the Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU handed out patches and other personal uniform items.
The children were happy to receive the attention of their visitors, but it was the visitors who came away with a sense of awe from the interaction.
“I met this amazing kid who had just had a kidney transplant, and he was doing magic tricks for us and smiling like nothing happened,” said Cpl. Matthew W. Murnin, a maintenance administration clerk for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st MEU, and a native of Mohegan Lake, N.Y. “I was able to see a different side of the Marine Corps with this visit, and a different way to serve.”
The 31st MEU is in Australia to participate in exercise Talisman Saber 13, as part of a scheduled deployment in support of regional security operations in the Asia Pacific. The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for the Asia Pacific region and the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.