While the majority of Marines and sailors from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and USS Kearsarge devoted a recent port visit in Malta to well-deserved rest and relaxation, a small pack of them volunteered an afternoon to revamp local care centers.
22nd MEU(SOC) and Kearsarge personnel formed three 10-man squads and teamed up to paint, clean, and solve general maintenance issues for three Maltese non-profit organizations.
The first of three stops was the Richmond Kids'Home, a youth group home for troubled children. Housed on the second level of the Jesus of Nazareth nunnery in Zejtun, Malta, caretakers take turns in teams of three to care for the energetic youngsters.
"The workers already cook and clean up after the children,"said Katia Schembri. "At the end of the day, we will be very tired. Today, the Marines have helped a lot."
Petty Officer 1st Class Wesley Green, an information technology specialist aboard the Kearsarge, saw the joint effort as an opportunity to give back.
"This is something I do at home, and it definitely feels good to help out the kids,"said Green.
A quick trip down the narrow stone Maltese streets landed another squad at the Park of Friendship in Marsascala, Malta. The park provides leisure activities for the disabled, such as swimming, exercise and a petting zoo for animal therapy.
Staff Sgt. Lance Horton, a Marine with the Command Element, said his squad formed teams to accomplish three tasks: paint the therapeutic pool area, clean the stables, and dredge drainage ditches to prepare them for winter.
"Doing this makes me feel good and proud to be an American on foreign soil,"said Horton. "To get out and do something for the local community is very rewarding."
Lance Cpl. Pete Brown, a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 22, spent the day painting and updating the interior of St. Joseph's Home, a youth home in St. Venera, Malta. Brown's experience was also rewarding, he said, and was a benefit of deploying aboard a Marine Expeditionary Unit.
"This has been a good experience, because reaching out to communities is what MEU's do,"said Brown. "We show what's best about the Marine Corps. When we leave, the country will remember that the ship came in, but this community will remember that we came, painted a little bit and left something of ourselves behind."
Since the number of volunteers tripled the number of available slots, many Marines and sailors were denied this opportunity to serve, though they may get the opportunity at any future port visits. A fourth project was completed by sailors with the USS Kearsarge at Little Sisters of the Poor Retirement Home in Hamrun, Malta.
The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) consists of its Ground Combat Element, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261; Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; and its Command Element. The 22nd MEU(SOC), commanded by Col. Doug Stilwell, is currently deployed aboard the ships of the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group.
Visit the MEU's Website at www.22meu.usmc.mil to keep posted about future community relations projects and training exercises.