Sailors reach out with ‘Love and friendship’

by PO1 Jason Swink
Commander, Naval Forces Korea

KOJE ISLAND – Sailors assigned to Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea, U.S. 7th Fleet and family members continued a 65-year tradition by volunteering, meeting, and helping local children at the Aikwangwon Home for the Mentally and Physically Challenged, March 19.

The partnership between Aikwangwon and the U.S. Navy began during the Korean War through the volunteer work of U.S. Navy doctors and nurses assigned to the U.S. base at Chinhae.

“U.S. Navy and Aikwangwon are like family,” said Ms. Song, Woo jung, Aikwangwon’s executive director. “We will always cherish and remember your love and friendship as long as Aikwangwon is here. The local [Koje] residents call our home the house the U.S. Navy built.”

Since the 1950’s, Sailors from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea and Commander, Fleet Activities Chinhae and visiting ships from the U.S. Seventh Fleet have performed community service projects and team-building activities as Aikwangwon transformed from a small home into a complex housing more than 200 full-time residents.

“I know you have your busy schedules, but you still come here when you have time. The children have so much fun when you visit, and we are appreciative of your time,” said Song to the Sailors.”

After eating a traditional Korean meal together, Sailors enjoyed a multimedia presentation highlighting the history of Aikwangwon and Navy volunteerism.

“As special as our relationship is now, we are standing on the shoulders of those that have come before us,” said Lt. Zachary Zumwalt, chaplain for Commander, Fleet Activities Chinhae. “We are stewards of this very special relationship began years and years ago, and we cherish the opportunity to continue it while we are here.”

Construction Mechanic Constructionman Thue Xion, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, who volunteered at Aikwangwon before agreed with Zumwalt about the importance of continuing to volunteer at Aikwangwon.

“This is an excellent opportunity to meet with the residents, help out those in need, and just to have a fun time with them,” said Xion. “My dad has Parkinson’s disease, so I can relate and understand the importance of helping those who can’t help themselves.”

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