POHANG, South Korea --
Twenty-four Marines and sailors from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit joined a handful of Marines from Marine Corps Base Camp Mujuk to help the Pohang Orphanage commemorate the Arbor Day holiday here, April 5.
The group was put to work as soon as they arrived, with a dozen assigned to clearing land around the orphanage. Debris, brush and tree stumps were swept aside for three hours to make room for rows of rose bushes. Some of the older orphans assisted the Marines, helping to improve the land overseeing their home.
“We set out to improve the atmosphere they live in,” said Sgt. Brendan P. Evans, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the air support element for the Command Element, 31st MEU, and a native of Oneonta, N.Y. “We enjoyed doing the work, especially for kids in this situation.”
While half of the group tested their “green thumbs,” the other Marines and sailors were whisked away by the rest of the 82 kids at the orphanage. Older children engaged the service members in badminton, basketball and soccer, while the younger children pulled the friendly visitors to the playground or “borrowed” their hats for play.
The children accepted the group immediately and their interactions were without hesitation. The orphans have become accustomed to visits from the Marines.
“The kids have played with Marines before, so they were very interactive,” said Sgt. Kyle D. Powers, a Military Information Support Operations team leader for the 31st MEU, and a native of Hancock, Md. “The history behind this orphanage makes the experience better for the kids and us.”
The Pohang orphanage was founded after the Korean War in 1953 by Navy chaplain Richard D. Cleaves from the 1st Marine Air Wing. In 1954, the Navy Seabees constructed the original building. Ever since, the children taken in by the orphanage have known regular visits from their camouflaged friends.
“Marines have been visiting this orphanage since its founding, and we are grateful!” said Park Sehyuk, the director of the orphanage.
The visit comes at the conclusion of the 31st MEU’s participation in Exercise Ssang Yong 2014, a bilateral training event that is a tribute to the maturity of the US-ROK relationship. The forces’ combined ability to operate across the full spectrum of military operations – from disaster relief to complex, expeditionary operations – contributes to the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.
The 24 volunteers who stepped forward, and the many more who volunteered but were unable to attend, also contribute to the strength of the US-ROK relationship. They set an example the unit hopes to foster.
“Hopefully this is something that sets forth a lifetime of service to others,” said Commander Nick Hamilton, chaplain for the CE, 31st MEU, and a native of Lakeview, Oreg. “This event was a great way for us to conclude our time here in Korea.”