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    Building a solid foundation to a stronger alliance

    Building a solid foundation to a stronger alliance

    Photo By Spc. Jacqueline Dowland | Soldiers assigned to 500th Engineer Company, 15th Engineer Battalion, 18th Military...... read more read more

    VINNI, Estonia - Saws sliced through wood as hammers drove nails deep into the sides of the structure, yet amidst the construction, the newfound friends joked and laughed, united in their commitment to the betterment of the community surrounding them.

    Soldiers assigned to 500th Engineer Company, 15th Engineer Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, joined employees of the Vinni Family Home in Vinni, Estonia, and members of the American Embassy in Estonia as they combined efforts and talents to build a playhouse for the children residing at the home to fruition, Aug. 29, as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

    The purpose of Operation Atlantic Resolve is to build a sense of security, stability and peace in the region, through the multinational interoperability of NATO allies. This joining of forces for the collected benefit of the region applies as much to the bonds formed during time off from work as it does to combined training exercises.

    "Today is the Soldiers' day off from work, yet they jumped at the opportunity to come out here and do this for the Estonian citizens," said 2nd Lt. Zach Marusa, an engineer officer assigned to 500th Engineer Company, and a native of Germantown, Tennessee.

    The Soldiers balanced hours of hard work with taking time to put down their saws and hammers to play games of soccer and frisbee with the children living at the family home. Taking this opportunity to interact with children thousands of miles away from home taught the Soldiers that there are universal similarities despite language barriers and cultural differences.

    "Kids are kids no matter where you are in the world," said 2nd Lt. Devon J. Compeau, 3rd Platoon leader for 500th Engineer Company, and a native of Romeo, Michigan. "Playing sports with them is international, there is no language barrier because everyone loves to have fun."

    While the children in the family home sometimes hear exciting stories at school about classmates going on trips to exotic locations with their families, the children will now be able to tell their classmates their own unique stories about making new friends from across the globe.

    "We can't take the kids out on long journeys from here, so it's excellent that something from far away can be brought to them," said Urve Saar, director for Vinni Family Home, and a native of Rakvere, Estonia. "Now the children can tell their friends about their wonderful day spent with their foreign guests."

    While the Soldiers usually work on construction projects building roads and structures closer to Tapa Army Base, the change of pace proved a rewarding experience. The hours of dedication and labor built a strong foundation for a lasting friendship that the children will reflect upon for years to come every time they use the playhouse.

    "Our main job while we're here is just to be building roads and a few structures," said Marusa. "But when we get to come out and actually meet the community, that's when the real bonds are built."

    As the Soldiers took the time to eat Meals-Ready-to-Eat with the children, the lasting impressions formed from the experience may influence the children in unexpected ways.

    "The children may decide to follow in the footsteps of their role models and become Soldiers themselves," said Saar. "Some of the girls here were surprised that there are females in uniform, so perhaps there will be girls from this home interested in joining the Estonian Defense League."

    As all involved in the project set down their work and joined together in a circle, the children of the home presented tokens of appreciation to the Soldiers who devoted their day off to improving their lives. The children and Soldiers expressed gratitude for the wonderful experience and memories gained.

    "Working hand-in-hand with the Estonian people is a good message to send about our dedication to the stability of the Estonian community," said Marusa. "It's great to put something permanent in Estonia that we can look back on, and see the tangible benefits of us being here."



    Date Taken: 08.29.2015
    Date Posted: 08.31.2015 03:37
    Story ID: 174696
    Location: VINNI, EE

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