News: Marines Help Students Gain In-Sight
Story by Master Sgt. Cohen Young
KORAT, Thailand - U.S. sailors and Marines visited students at a local school for the blind in Thailand March 18 during Exercise Cope Tiger 2011.
Members of the Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, took time from their exercise schedule to visit the students of the School for the Blind Education Service Center here. The service members were happy to make the trip.
“It means a lot to take time away from the exercise to come out here,” said Lance Cpl. Samuel Roberto, a native of Santa Rita, Guam. “Where I’m from, I didn’t have an opportunity to help a lot of kids, so for this chance, I’m grateful and I feel really good about myself.”
Typically, one would expect a language barrier in a situation like this, but the 82 children that attend the school study English. Communication was not an obstacle, but shyness was.
“They were all shy at first, but all you have to do is open up your heart to them because they all can speak English,’ added LCPL Roberto. “Once your heart is open, they can understand you.”
The visit meant a lot to the students that may not see the strangers, but did know they were here in Thailand.
“Everyday the children listen to the planes flying above, and now it’s exciting for them to reach out and touch the people working with the planes,” said Maria Moanatejo, an English teacher at the school.
“Our students were very excited for a busy and hectic day with the soldiers," said Ada Nichuen Saknida Boonnirah, the deputy director of the school. “The students are so happy to be able to touch you, your suits, your backpacks and want to know everything about you because it brings them joy and insight into who you are.”
Some of the students were able to bond even more with a few of the service members because they shared a similar platform or love.
“I really love music and I met this one kid that was gifted at hearing and playing music,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabriel Fortes, hospital corpsmean, a native of New Jersey by way of Brazil. “I played a note on a guitar and then he copied and we made a song together on the spot, which was truly amazing to me.”
At the end of the day, it was clearly a good visit for all involved from the students, to the teachers and definitely for the sailors and Marines as it put a smile on the children’s faces.
“Having us, the U.S. Marines, Air Force and Navy come out here and showing them our support makes them feel better about themselves and that makes me feel good."
Cope Tiger is multilateral joint exercise involving the United States, Thailand and Singapore. The exercise provides a quality venue to develop multilateral interoperability and coalition procedures in air power missions, o include air superiority, close air support, interdiction, electronic warfare, tactical airlift, aerial refueling and airborne command and control.