ABOARD USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors came from all over USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and lined up in the ship's hangar bay in January to donate some of their most prized possessions - stufffed animals and toys - to victims of the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia.
While it may seem odd for Sailors to covet such items, it should be known the stuffed animals and toys were primarily mementos from loved ones, or special gifts for their children or young relatives back home. Despite the special meaning attached to these items, the Sailors who donated them felt it was more important to try to bring a little joy to young tsunami victims who now have little else.
"I know that if I was in that position, I would want something to hold on to, also," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Melissa A. Gude, of Lincoln's Combat Systems Department, and a native of Hanover, Pa. She donated a pink, stuffed pig that has been her traveling companion for 10 years.
All this came about because Lincoln's First Class Petty Officer's Association (FCPOA) wanted to do something to help with the relief effort and show the ship's generosity. After conferring with Capt. David Lausman, Lincoln's executive officer, and the ship's Religious Ministries Department, the group decided to organize the toy drive.
Under the guidance of the association's vice president, Information Systems Technician 1st Class Felix C. Jones, of Lincoln's Combat Systems Department, and native of Abilene, Texas, the logistics were worked out and the toy drive approved. Little did they realize they would get such quick and positive results.
"We were blessed that people had some toys on board, and that the ship's store had some teddy bears available," said Jones. "These were personal items that people cherished. People just gave from their hearts."
One by one, Sailors stepped up and placed stuffed animals and toys in the large box that had been set up for the effort.
"This is the polar bear pillow that my boys gave me before I left," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW) John E. King, of Lincoln's Deck Department.
"I e-mailed them and told them the pillow needs to go to someone else," explained the Hot Springs, Ark. native. "They said, 'By all means,' and now they feel that they are connected to me, and also connected to all those people who have been hurt so terribly."
Within a couple hours, 250 toys had been collected for distribution. Members of Lincoln's FCPOA then placed the donations in bags and carried them to the ship's flight deck, where they were loaded aboard an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter and flown to the airport at Bande Aceh. Lincoln's command master chief, Master Chief John O'Banion, of Cunningham, Kan., and several other Lincoln Sailors then carried them from the helicopter landing area to the medical tents used to provide initial medical treatment for evacuated tsunami victims.
"U.S. AID (Agency for International Development) was astounded," said O'Banion.
According to O'Banion, the U.S. AID representative who accepted the donations said it was like an answered prayer. The aid workers at the hospital had discussed the need for such items the night before. Several mentioned the stuffed animals will provide much needed healing power for the young patients when they need it most.
"They need it more than me," said Cryptologic Technician Seaman Apprentice Sabrina B. Costa, of Lincoln's Operation's Department, and a native of Houston. "They lost everything."
For related news on Navy tsunami relief operations, visit the Focus on Tsunami Relief Operations page at www.navy.mil/local/tsunami.
For related news, visit the Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/c7f.