News: US sailors keep tradition of goodwill alive at Aikwangwon orphanage
KOJE ISLAND, Republic of Korea – Active-duty and reserve sailors from U.S. Naval Forces Korea partnered with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 40’s Detachment Chinhae Seabees built on an enduring relationship with the Aikwangwon orphanage on Koje Island, Republic of Korea, March 3.
“Island residents used to refer to us as the house of the Navy,” said Kim Im-soon, who founded the place with seven orphans in 1952. “Navy doctors used to come and help out and give care when it was in its first years.”
Sixty years later, 59 sailors spent the day at Aikwangwon doing their part to continue this ongoing tradition by helping improve the facility with minor repairs. They repaired cracked walls, painted, moved storage items, cleared brush, cleaned up rock erosion and turned logs in a mushroom garden.
Aikwangwon means "the garden of love and light." It is now a school and home for the severely physically or mentally disabled. It houses 240 residents, which includes children and adults of all ages, and provides schooling to more than 200 students from the area during the day.
“The Navy volunteers did in one day what would have taken over two months to accomplish,” said Kim.
Sailors split up to interact with the residents and children after completing the work. Some went for a hike while others went inside to play games.
“The most enjoyable part was when we walked with the residents up through the forest. We went on the hill and listened to them sing,” said Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Demetrius Armstrong from Kokomo, Ind. “Even though I didn’t understand a word they were saying or singing, there was like a peace to it, and I really enjoyed that.”
“One of the girls took my camera and ran off taking pictures until the battery died,” said Intelligence Specialist 3rd Class Mary Armquist from Salina, Kan. “It was a lot of fun. They made me laugh.”
She said she was interested to see what pictures were taken once back at Fleet Activities Chinhae and able to charge up her camera.
Armquist and Armstrong were two of 27 reservists that participated in the trip to Aikwangwon. Most of the reservists had just arrived in the Republic of Korea for Foal Eagle 2012 Exercise.
“This is the seventh decade of a life of service she’s starting. She’s an example for all of us. We have come away much better,” said Rear Adm. Bill McQuilkin, commander of Naval Forces Korea about Kim before the sailors departed.
The sailors brought 25 cases of disposable diapers, 5 DVD players and a bin of 100 DVDs with them that the Chief Petty Officer Association helped put together. Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. David Yang of CFAC also presented a check for $1,000 that had been collected in offerings.
CNFK is the regional commander for the U.S. Navy in the Republic of Korea and provides expertise on naval matters to area military commanders, including the commander for the United Nations Command, the Republic of Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, and Commander, U.S. Forces Korea. CNFK also serves as liaison to the ROK navy and the Combined Forces commander staff in armistice and in wartime to commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, based in Yokosuka, Japan.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnfk/.
NMCB 40's main body is currently deployed to Okinawa, Japan, with detail sites in Cambodia, Guam, Timor Leste, Republic of Korea, Philippines, and mainland Japan. The battalion is scheduled to return to their homeport of Port Hueneme, Calif., this summer.
For more news from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 40, visit www.navy.mil/local/nmcb40/.