GRAND GOAVE, Haiti (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) and embarked Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit return to the city of Grand Goave, Haiti, March 12, a town they helped in the immediate aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Grand Goave became Bataan's adopted town when the ship arrived off the coast Jan. 18. Sailors spent nearly a month clearing rubble, distributing aid, building shelters and providing medical care in Grand Goave before turning the mission over to non-governmental organizations last month.
"It looks like a town's coming back to life," said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Howard King. "The first day it was like a ghost town amongst the ruin and rubble. Now, you really have to look to find where the rubble is, where the broken buildings are. The people of this town are getting out and taking back what was once theirs ... they're starting to get their life back to normal."
The day was mostly about visiting the town and the population the crew had become such a big part of, but Sailors also brought along medical supplies, food and a few boxes of toys for the kids.
Bataan's medical team made it a point to stop by the Lifeline Christian Ministries Mission, where they had spent so much time caring for earthquake victims.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Casey Goodman, who treated medical patients at Lifeline many times before, said the number of patients being seen in the clinics has been greatly reduced over the last few weeks.
Bataan is still operating off the coast of Haiti, with Sailors and Marines providing oversight and serving as liaisons in a number of areas west of Port-au-Prince while the government of Haiti and non-governmental organizations work to return to their pre-earthquake capacities.
"Everybody understands the mission at hand," said King. "It's a hard mission. It's a marathon mission, not a sprint, and we are here for the long haul. After completing a seven-month deployment and then coming out here for a relief mission, it's hard, it's taxing, but it's also rewarding. We have the capability to help people in need, that is rewarding in itself."
As the Sailors and Marines walked two-by-two back through the center of town, the residents lined the cobblestone streets to wave and show their appreciation.
Bataan has been on station off the coast of Haiti since Jan. 18, supporting Operation Unified Response, an international commitment to provide relief for the victims of Haiti's devastating earthquake.
For more news from USS Bataan (LHD 5), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd5/.