USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- During a recent port visit to Souda Bay, Crete, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) crew members volunteered to participate in several community relations (COMREL) projects Dec. 3-6 in an effort to bond with the local community.
Eighty-eight Sailors and Marines volunteered their time, energy and services during the three COMREL projects.
"I think it is important for us to do COMRELs because it shows the locals we are people who are willing to give and help out in any way we can," said Religious Program Specialist 1st Class (SW) Michaella Suffa-Wuya. "It shows we are not only here to visit the town, but also to do good while we are here."
The Sailors and Marines spent more than 390 volunteer hours at the Chania Senior Citizens Center and Church, the Chania Boys' Long Term Care Facility and the Naval Support Activity Souda Bay Church.
During the visit to the Boys' Long Term Care facility, Truman Sailors and Marines interacted with the 29 underprivileged boys and provided them with ping-pong equipment, basketballs and soccer balls donated by the ship's crew.
"The kids really enjoyed the toys we brought them and couldn't wait to kick around the ball," said Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Shelby Bennett. "I feel we established a good bond with them, and we had a great game of soccer."
"One little boy was so excited to see us there," said Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Shelby Bennett. "He just wanted to run around and meet everyone in our group. It was a really fun and rewarding experience."
Crew members who participated in the Chania Senior Citizens Center and Church project expressed similar satisfaction with their efforts in helping to make the center a better place to live. The Sailors and Marines spent more than four hours cleaning windows, rails, stairs, grass areas, walkways and painting.
"I felt like we worked great as a team," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Elana Haas. "It was fun to be thrown into an unfamiliar situation and figure out what we needed to do together."
In appreciation for their work, the center's caretakers provided the volunteers with a traditional Greek lunch.
"The food they provided us was very hearty, and it was great to enjoy it after working hard all morning," said Haas. "It was really nice to be able to do something for the community and show them how much we like to help out."
For some crew members, the COMREL projects gave them a broader perspective of things they have to be thankful for in their own lives.
"I think the volunteers who gave their hearts during the COMRELs will be able to look back at this and see that no matter where they are in their lives, somewhere out there are people who may have it worse than they do," said Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Lewis, of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312. "It can give them perspective and a different outlook on their lives and troubles."
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.