By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew Riggs
BUSAN, Republic of Korea– Sailors from the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) visited the Busan Cheonma Jaehwalwon home for mentally disabled children and adults, July 14.
The visit was part of a community relationship project (COMREL) aimed to foster relationships and build upon the partnership between the U.S. and Republic of Korea.
“COMRELs are especially important for our ship, given its status as forward-deployed,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Matthew Gustafson. “Since we operate in and around 7th Fleet, it’s vitally important that we build and maintain good relations with our partners.”
Sailors were provided a tour of the home’s facilities; the center has its own dormitories, kitchen and cooking areas, classrooms, garden, and pottery.
“The goal isn’t to keep our members here forever,” said Lee Ji Sun, an instructor at the facility. “We give them the knowledge and skills they need to one day go out into the world and live independently.”
After the tour, George Washington Sailors were partnered with a member to participate in arts and crafts.
“I thought giving my time would be a good experience for me,” said Yeoman 3rd Class Juan Carrillo, from Ventura, Calif. “I’ve never done this sort of thing before, and it certainly was something I’ll remember. It’s amazing to see how the Korean people take care of each other and how enthused they can get about it.”
After completing the visit, both Sailors and Cheonma members exchanged a few gifts and said their good-byes.
“Today had a very special meaning for us,” said Sun. “Everyone was so friendly and we all had a good time together. They weren’t just volunteers today, they were our friends.”