Soldiers share cultural differences, make special memories with children in South Korea
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea – The sounds of children’s laughter could be heard as Soldiers of 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade played games and shared stories with kids at Aehyangwon Orphanage in Songtan October 24.
The visit is the first of many partnered events to come according to the brigade’s chaplain who orchestrated the event.
“We want to continue to build relationships within our community,” said Maj. Christopher Offen, 35th ADA Brigade chaplain. “With each visit to local organizations, we plant a small seed toward the positive perception of U.S. service members that are serving here in Korea.”
More than 40 children interacted with the Soldiers of 35th ADA Brigade during their visit.
Orphanages in South Korea differ from those found in the U.S. because they are sanctioned by the government and often provide supplemental support for parents who are unable to physically or financially support their child.
“We are very grateful to U.S. forces that visit with our children,” said Soo Yeon Kim, Aehyangwon orphanage volunteer coordinator. “The children are delighted to spend time with Americans, to share a meal and learn something about another culture.”
The visit was beneficial for children and Soldiers alike.
“It’s very therapeutic for Soldiers to interact with members of their community and to make a positive impact on those around them regardless of whether they have children of their own,” said 1st Sgt. Julio Hernandez, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 35th ADA Brigade. “Too often we highlight the bad decisions of service members when it’s really only a small percent of what Soldiers are doing. They have made the decision to serve in a foreign country, to protect the freedoms of others and then to volunteer their time to make a difference in the lives of others.”
“And no matter how far away from home we are, visits like these show us how similar we all are to one another,” Hernandez said.
The brigade staff plans to visit the orphanage next month to share the American tradition of Thanksgiving.
“It will be a unique experience for Soldiers and Korean children alike,” said Spc. Yeon Lee, 35th ADA brigade religious services specialist and former teacher in Korea. “The tradition of Thanksgiving is not something these children will experience unless they are able to visit the United States and the Soldiers who will share this observance would not have this opportunity if they were doing this in the States.”
“We will all have special memories from our visit and it is something I know that we are looking forward to doing again real soon,” said Lee.
Soldiers interested in volunteering can find a list of opportunities within their community by logging in to the Volunteer Management Information System at myarmyonesource.com.