BRISBANE, Queensland, Australia -- On a chilly Thursday morning, U.S. service members turned in their rifles and rations for squeegees and morning tea to enjoy the day with some of their elders in the heart of Queensland.
Marines and Sailors of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Sailors of Amphibious Squadron 11 visited the Blue Care Nursing Home here, July 11.
The units arrived in Australia to participate in exercise Talisman Saber 13, but also found some free time to get out into the community. Led by the chaplains from both PHIBRON 11 and 31st MEU, a small group of volunteers set out to demonstrate the respect and goodwill they have for Australian people.
“The purpose of us hosting these events is to show that we are a team that possesses the willingness and the drive to serve others,” said Petty Officer Third Class Benjamin Young, a religious programming specialist with the 31st MEU and a native of Millington, Tenn. “We wanted to pay our respects to a generation that has done so much in this world.”
Upon arrival, the troops were broken into groups, given buckets and squeegees, and sent to work. Their task was to wash the windows that surrounded the home’s gardens, a scenic and popular view for the residents.
“We were able to not only help the nurses with the cleaning around the home, we were given the opportunity to sit down and hear some of the experiences of the senior citizens in the home,” said Sgt. Jason R. Wehrer, the wrecker non-commissioned officer in charge with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU, and a native of Casselberry, Fla.
When all of the windows were clean, the service members packed away the cleaning gear and moved inside. Marines and Sailors sat down next to the elder Australians and enjoyed morning tea, sandwiches, muffins and fresh fruit. For more than 30 minutes, the service members conversed with their hosts while enjoying their hospitality.
“The residents had amazing stories to share,” said Wehrer. “Our time together not only made our day, but I believe it also made theirs.”
When hearing of the visit, some of the residents who were physically unable to attend the morning tea requested that the Marines and Sailors come by their room to visit. During these visits, the troops found heartfelt gratitude.
“It means a lot for you all to come here and visit me,” said Retired Staff Sgt. Terry Tuttle, an engineer with the Australian Army who fought in the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May 1942, and resident of the home. “I fought alongside U.S. soldiers during World War II and we shared a lot of the same struggles.”
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.