SOUDA BAY, Greece (NNS) -- More than 20 Sailors from USS Enterprise (CVN 65) took time to spread some joy to the less fortunate in the city of Xania, Crete, by participating in community relations (COMREL) projects May 25, during the ship's port visit to Souda Bay, Greece.
Sailors broke out the garden tools to clear the playground at the city's Daily Care Center for Children with Special Needs, while members of Enterprise's Gospel Choir performed a medley of songs for patients at the Therapeutic Center for People with Chronic Illnesses.
Sailors cleared the Care Center's playground of the four-foot-high weeds and stems that had engulfed the swing set and play area at the Center. The Sailors used weed whackers, rakes and even their hands to free the swings and toy houses that had been inaccessible.
Before the Sailors left the center, the children presented them with finger-painted pictures in thanks for their hard work.
All of the children who attend the Care Center are afflicted with some type of birth defect, and this was a driving factor in one Sailor's passion to contribute.
"One of the main reasons I signed up for this COMREL is because my son is eight years old and he has cerebral palsy," said Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic (AW) R. J. Darvas, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 136. "So when they said it was for special needs kids, it hit home. I'm all about helping communities, but when children are involved, that makes it more special."
Darvas said he was impressed with the way Enterprise Sailors worked as a team and their determination to get the job done.
"The outcome is unbelievable," said Darvas, a Vermillion, Ohio, native. "To see everybody from all different parts of the ship - the air wing, ship's company, whereever they are from - they all came here to accomplish a goal as one team. The end outcome is to help these kids and let them enjoy the playground. It's amazing."
Sailors who uplifted with voices rather than hands said it was good to bring joy to the patients at the Therapeutic Center, but they also took something away - a feeling one Sailor found difficult to put in words.
"I cannot describe this. I feel it, but I can't describe," said Electronics Technician 3rd Class (SW) Linda Gilmore of Newark, N.J. "Not only were we able to come and give them something, but they gave us something. These people loved us regardless of who we are and where we were from. They just loved us, and it is great to be received like this."
Gilmore said when Sailors go on COMREL missions, it is more than just helping out, it is an exchange that you can only feel if you participate.
"It's a mutual exchange. You give up your time, but you leave feeling as if you've done so much," Gilmore said. "You've made a difference in another person's life in another part of the world, and the only way to get something is to be a part of it."
The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group is currently on a scheduled six-month deployment. The ship is 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/.