GETTYSBURG, Pa. (NNS) -- Fifty Ike Sailors traveled to the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Historic Site, or "Ike Farm," with the mission of restoration and preservation of Eisenhower's estate, October 30.
The sun glistened on the freshly applied white paint, rising steadily in a clear blue sky and over the flowing rows of ivory-colored fences. Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) dotted the grassy pasture, their conversations and laughter filling the crisp morning air of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
"We're here to help preserve and rehabilitate different parts of the farm, including the fences," said Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Ana Francisco, as the cows were mooing softly in the distance. "We have been painting, taking down old fences and just helping maintain this beautiful farm."
Before the volunteers spent two days hard at work at the farm, painting and installing new fences, they started their trip with a guided tour of Ike's home and the Gettysburg Battlefield.
"You could feel all the history," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Senior Chief Scott Doty, lead coordinator for the Ike Farm Preservation Project. "Three hundred and fifty thousand people lost their lives during three days of fighting here. It gives me chills just realizing that so many people lost their lives fighting for what they believed in."
The tours provided an insight into what had happened in 1863 and many of the Sailors claimed they felt humbled to be working in such a historic area.
"When you're standing there all you can do is imagine it happening," said Francisco. "It's scary to think that such a big battle happened right here and so many people fought and died for us - for freedom."
For the next two days the Sailors bundled up to fight off the cool, autumn temperatures and boarded the bus at 6:00 a.m. to begin their work.
"It's a big culture shock," said Francisco. "I've never had the opportunity to build fences and dig holes like this. It was definitely a new experience and I love it."
Most of the Sailors expressed pride in their work. They held smiles on their faces despite the cold drizzle and strong winds.
"My favorite part of this trip so far has been taking an active role and doing some community service," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Daniel Nerino. "We are here doing something more than just what's required. We're working for something greater than ourselves."
The trip ended on the fourth day with a documentary and a viewing of a 360 cyclorama at the Gettysburg Museum of History.
"My favorite part has just been seeing how the junior Sailors are coming together and working as a team," said Doty. "I don't think a lot of people knew each other at the beginning. After being up here for only a couple days you can see the camaraderie on their faces. Through touring the battlefield, putting in all this hard work and relaxing, they've come together in true Navy fashion. It's extremely rewarding."
As the sun set in Portsmouth, the Sailors returned home with a week's worth of hard work and lessons learned.
"This trip has definitely brought us closer together," said Nerino. "Sometimes it's difficult to grow close to people on the ship because of the tempo and our different lifestyles. This trip has given me the opportunity to connect with people that I never would have spoken to. I'm leaving the farm with a ton of lasting memories."
Ike is in Portsmouth, Virginia undergoing a Planning Incremental Availability (PIA) at Norfolk Naval Shipyard during the maintenance phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP).
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