RHODES, Greece (NNS) -- More than 100 Sailors from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) participated in a community relations (COMREL) project, May 8, in Rhodes to help beautify the historic Rodini park here.
Rear Adm. Mark Fox, Commander, Carrier Strike Group (CCSG) 10, said participating in events such as this allows Sailors to create bonds with the local community that will last for years to come.
"We are pleased to be able to take part in this project and represent the U.S.," Fox said. "The Sailors are very excited and bring a lot of young energy here. These types of interactions are very important because we are able to show the [Greek] people that what is important to them is also important to us."
Before Sailors began their work on the park, Daniel Speckhard, U.S. Ambassador to Greece, and the Mayor of Rhodes, Chatzis Chatziefthimiou, presented Truman with a memento of thanks. Speckhard said he appreciated Sailors taking time from their liberty to help with the park beautification because it shows our Greek allies that America shares their same values.
"For us to pay respect to their history as you're doing here by coming to this park and helping to clean up and, [you are] showing how important it is to us too. As citizens from the same world, to protect our culture and heritage in common to them means a lot and it shows them that Americans, care about them, care about their community, care about their history and care about the beauty of the island."
Fire Controlman 2nd Class Crystal Ditro, one of the participants, said she enjoys volunteering for COMRELs because it gives her a chance to see the local community in a different light.
"We worked and interacted with a few of the locals, and while we were out there, they were showing us pictures of their wives and children, and we got to do the same thing for them. We were able to ask each other questions and communicate. If you were out in town you couldn't just go up to someone and start asking questions," she said.
Another volunteer noted COMREL events help develop international relations.
"This is one of the oldest parks in this area and it's certainly a place the community spends a lot of its time," said volunteer Lt. Cmdr. Casey Baker. "You get to work with a lot of the local workers and some of the people that are here and it gives you a different perspective. Like us, they want a nice park where they can take their families and hang out and have a good time. So, we can help make it a nice place for people to bring their families. It shows them that we are their friends and we hope to keep it that way."
Lt. Cmdr. Steve Smith, a chaplain and event organizer, explained Sailor participation increases morale and self esteem.
"It's good for the Sailors," Smith said. "The Sailors love giving, it really encourages them. If we are mind, body and soul it's one way they can spiritually give back; caring for others."
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman, visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.