SPLIT, Croatia (NNS) -- Nearly 40 Sailors from USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and embarked Carrier Air Wing 1 left an indelible mark on the port city of Split, Croatia, when they participated in two community relations projects May 19 during the ship's port visit.
Sailors visited the Jura Bonaci Home for Mentally Handicapped Children, where they rehabilitated and painted railing on the school's balcony. Other Sailors removed hazards and trash from the Marjam City Park during a clean-up project.
Ducic Feda, a therapist at the Jura Bonaci Home, said Sailors meeting patients is an act of true humanity because it lets patients know they do belong.
"Anytime we have visitors here it is a good thing," said Feda. "It's important to them because sometimes outside the home, they feel forbidden. They feel they don't belong. But for the Sailors to come by and shake their hands and speak to them, it lets them know they are not forbidden."
Sailors were fascinated to see the type of activities the patients at Jura Bonaci participated in. Although they are mentally challenged, their handicaps did not prevent them from making pottery, woven blankets, and plates. When the Sailors left the center, they were given gifts made by the patients.
Chief Aviation Maintenance Administrationman (AW) Hank Palazzolo, of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 136, described the experience as 'unique.'
"This whole experience was very unique," said the Jacksonville Beach, Fla., native. "I didn't expect this. I was impressed with the level of care and the fact that they don't have millions of dollars here, but they still manage to get by. Everybody was so happy and cared for. That really impresses me."
Palazzolo feels when Sailors get involved with the community during port visits, it spreads a positive image of the Navy as well as America.
"I think coming out here to help out not only makes the Navy look good, but it also makes America look good," said Palazzolo. "When we can come out here, it really shows the true image of America. There is not a lot of this being seen around the world."
Enterprise, along with CSG 12, is currently on a regularly scheduled six-month deployment. The four-day port visit to Split was the ship's first visit after a two-week transit across the Atlantic Ocean. The ship is currently operating in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.
For related news, visit the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn65/.