EILAT, Israel - Marines assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and sailors assigned to the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) volunteered their time to participate in a community relation’s event in efforts to aid the Guardians of the Bay foundation in Eilat, Israel, May 16, 2013.
“This is a scouting like organization here in Eilat,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Sean Maxwell, naval attaché in Israel. “Kids, ages 13-16, get together once a week and go diving for a cleanup of the bay. They gather everything from plastic cups to cigarette butts. This is actually a really great place to be helping because this organization supports the key to the identity of Eilat. They pride themselves in keeping a pristine environment.”
The Marines and sailors helped with multiple tasks to help increase the overall presentation of the organization’s headquarters building.
“We started by helping with some interior cosmetic work patching and painting walls,” said 1st Lt. Ryan Steenberge, assistant fire support officer for the 26th MEU. “While one group helped with that, the rest of us went outside to the courtyard and cleaned up a bunch of scrap metal, trash and glass that had been thrown around the area to help make it safer so the organization’s volunteers could meet more regularly. On top of that, we also helped with some landscaping, trimming trees and cleaning up the foliage.”
After working in the confined quarters on ship seven days a week, many people had plans on what they wanted to do with their well-deserved free time while in Eilat. The ten volunteers had their eyes set on different goals. They wanted to make an impression on the city that was so welcoming to the troops.
“I like going to foreign countries and I wanted to give back to them,” said Steenberge. “I really wanted to interact with the locals of the city. I feel like that is why we go out, and why our military is loved as much as it is around the world. We take the time and opportunities to help the countries we visit and I wanted to be part of that.”
Before leaving, the volunteers were surprised by offerings of home cooked food from the members of the Guardians of the Bay well as an unexpected visit from Meir Yitzhak Halevi, the mayor of Eilat.
“On the seashores of this gulf are four countries: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Egypt,” said Halevi. “There is no reason why these countries don’t operate with peace and peace starts with people. With what you did here today, this can be the beginning of that peace.”