By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo Guzman
BUSAN, Republic of Korea (July 14, 2014) – Sailors assigned to the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) and Republic of Korea (ROK) navy brought joy to children from the Jongdukwon Orphanage during a community relations project (COMREL), July 14.
Thirty-four U.S. and six ROK navy Sailors participated in various activities with children during one of George Washington’s eight COMREL events in Busan.
“It was a great day coming in and seeing how genuinely happy the kids were when we played with them,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Domingo Rodriguez, from George Washington’s legal department. “When we take time out to come here and work with our allies to serve their community, it helps the people know that we’re not just here to provide military support.”
Sailors were first greeted by staff and given a brief introduction to the history of the orphanage. Shortly after, Sailors helped clean the playground and make water balloons for the children.
“I really appreciate the kindness the Sailors have shown to our children,” said Shi Wook Song, Jongdukwon Orphanage vice-principal. “The Sailors are very loving and the children love to interact with them. Their presence here shows the kinship that we are building.”
The staff then welcomed the Sailors to a traditional Korean dessert, bean-soup ice cream, while they shared laughs and stories.
“I feel really good about volunteering with our U.S. allies,” said ROK navy Senior Chief Won Jeong Hyun. “Interacting with each other in a non-military capacity opens up the doors for new friendships and really gives new insight into our relationship as people.”
Children soon paired up with Sailors, took them by the hand and ran out to the playground to play jump rope, soccer, compete in a three-legged race and have a water-balloon fight.
“The children really loved playing games with the Sailors,” said Song. “These children don’t all have parents or a home and the attention that they’re getting is just what they need.”
As the day came to a close, Sailors, staff and children shared snacks and posed for photos before high-fiving good-bye.
“The smiles and gratitude we received today was amazing,” said Rodriguez. “The staff was extremely nice and welcoming, and the children were very friendly, eager and adorable. It makes me proud to have participated today.”