By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lehman
Eighteen Sailors assigned to the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) supported a local boys' home by painting a 200-meter iron fence during a scheduled port visit to Souda Bay, Greece, Oct. 8-9, 2019.
Established in 1922 and located a short drive from the port of Souda Bay, the Daily Care Center for Children and Young Adults of Chania is a state-funded boys' home, which provides support to 16 boys from the ages of 12 to 16 and five young adults aged 18 or older.
“The U.S. Navy has been coming to this boys' home for at least 10 years and giving us help, and we consider the Navy a part of the local community,” said Zacharias Chondrogiannis, director of the care center. “The help the Navy provides to the boy’s home is significant. The Sailors are good role models for the children because the children see someone who has achieved something in their life and career. Sailors are good professionals who come and help and volunteer in their free time.”
Cryptologic Technician (Collection) Seaman Jacob Macaluso, who is on his first deployment, participated in the visit to the boys' home. Despite this being his first ever port visit to a foreign country, he elected to give up some of his free time to volunteer.
“I wanted to go to volunteer at this community relations (COMREL) event because it felt like the right thing to do and it turned out to be a lot of fun,” said Macaluso. “Yes, I am giving up some of my free time, but at the same time, not only am I promoting the Navy, I am making myself feel better by helping someone else and maybe even pushing others to do the same.”
The act of volunteering aligns with the Navy’s dedication to service and its core value of commitment. Volunteering benefits everyone involved in the project- the Sailors, the children, the staff, and the community.
“When the Navy comes out and helps us, it sets a good role model for the children and young adults to look up to,” said Angeliki Antonopoulou, a social worker at the care center. “They see the Sailors provide volunteer work, and it is important for the children to have good role models for them to look up to as they grow up.”
Antonopoulou hopes that the example set by the Sailors is one that will set an example for the children and the community.
“We hope that when the children grow up to be adults, they do the same kind of volunteering, just like the Sailors here today,” said Antonopoulou. “Many locals see the Sailors like to give back to this community and they appreciate it. Sometimes passersby say thank you for their work and it helps build a positive image for the Navy.”
The Sailors not only donate their time and labor but also themselves as they interact with the community.
“It is important for the kids to not just see the Sailors work but to also socialize with them,” said Antonopoulou. “These events help the kids meet other people, learn about new ideas, different cultures, and to see men and women from another country as role models.”
One of Normandy’s command philosophies is investing in our future. Community relations projects like this one are just one way the Navy can continue to invest in our partner nation’s future and our own.
“Sailors have always appreciated opportunities to participate in acts of charity during naval operations. COMRELS promote understanding, compassion, and they foster goodwill between Sailors and the host nation,” said Capt. Christopher D. Stone, commanding officer of Normandy.“This COMREL was an awesome opportunity for our Sailors to make an impact a local boys home in Souda Bay. COMRELS reinforce our core values and charity is something Normandy will always strive to accomplish.”
Upon completion of the project, Sailors from Normandy donated the remaining painting supplies for use when Sailors from the next U.S. Navy vessel are willing to lend a hand.
Normandy, homeported in Norfolk, is part of the East Coast Surface Action Group (SAG) and is operating in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility as part of a scheduled deployment and will conduct routine maritime security operations, improve interoperability and engagement with allies and partners, and demonstrate the combat power and flexibility of naval forces.
The SAG is comprised of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG 82), USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98), USS Farragut (DDG 99), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), and embarked helicopter detachments from Helicopter Maritime Squadron (HSM) 72, from Naval Air Station Jacksonville.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.