News: Helping through art
Story by Sgt. Derrol Fulghum
Navy Religious Programs Specialist 2nd Class Castonia Lee says she wants to be remembered as a compassionate person who helped others. One way she helps others is through her poetry, focusing mainly on writing about troubled youth.
"My mind can flow freely if something touches me," said Lee, a chaplain's assistant with Joint Task Force Guantanamo. It is this passion for helping others that has earned Lee her 15 minutes of fame.
Before joining the Navy 12 years ago as a storekeeper, Lee was going to school to be a veterinarian. The military appealed to her because of the benefits.
"The Navy recruiter was the most persistent," she said. "He really wanted me to be a Sailor."
Twelve years later, Lee sits in the chaplain's front office, supervising the section. She is also responsible for handing out religious items to detainees.
"Working as a chaplain's assistant has been a very good experience," Lee said, of her six months at JTF Guantanamo. "If I could have my kids here, I could do this forever."
Her passion for helping troubled youth stems from her desire to see today's children grow into strong, well-adjusted men and women. She uses her poetry to do so.
"My inspiration can come from anywhere," Lee said. "Lately, I get a lot of it from watching the news. So many sad things happen every day, and I feel I have to write about it."
Lee said some songs move her to write as well.
This passion and fire inside her, for helping others, does not go unnoticed.
"She has a gift for reaching out to people and helping them," said Rosalind President, the pastor of a church near Lee's home in Pensacola, Fla. "She seems to know what's going on in someone's life without them even talking to her, and she's there for them."
Lee has three children, and has spoken in their school classrooms.
"I try to help, no matter where I am," she said.
The Internet is also a good outlet for Lee's poems. "I've put some out there ... a couple on [social networking Web sites]," Lee said.
In 1999, Lee changed her job from storekeeper to religious programs specialist.
"I'm a faith-driven person, a person of compassion and I like to help people," Lee said. "I thought religious programs specialist would be perfect for me."
Being a religious programs specialist has helped her increase her faith and given her many more opportunities to help others.
"You don't find people willing to spend their money and time to help others like [Lee] does," President said.
Lee sometimes likes to take a few minutes from her busy schedule to sit by the water and write poems. She has them all categorized, by theme, in binders.
"I share some poems, but many of them I'm not ready to show anybody yet," said Lee. "A lot of it is private because of my frustration with how today's kids are treated. Maybe one day I'll refine them and have them published."
That doesn't stop Lee from helping where she can, though, even with the short number of days she has left in Guantanamo Bay as she completes her assigned tour.
"If one person listens, then it's worth it," Lee conclude