RAYONG, Kingdom of Thailand --
U.S. Marines and sailors with the Logistics Combat Element and Marine Forces Headquarters participating in Exercise Cobra Gold 2012 visited the Camillian Social Center as part of a community relations project here Feb. 11.
The social center’s purpose is to provide health care for adults and children suffering from HIV/AIDS with the mindset of ‘caring for the sick as a mother cares for her sick child’.
The 24 service members spent the afternoon visiting the sick, playing games and interacting with the adults and children who live at the center.
“[We] were able to interact with the residents of the center and show our support from the United States military for the Kingdom of Thailand,” said Lt. Gary W. Foshee, command chaplain for Combat Logistics Battalion 3, Marine Corps Base Hawaii. “It is definitely a way for us to show our appreciation for Thailand hosting us in not only their military operations but also in their communities.”
It really is a great thing when the children get to interact with new people, said D. Paul Baird, a volunteer at the center.
“It’s wonderful when the younger generation like the Marines and sailors come to visit because they have more energy to keep up with the children and the children love to have them.”
At the conclusion of the visit, the center provided paper hearts and markers for the residents and visitors to create St. Valentine’s Day cards to display at the center.
“The best part of the event was being able to see the residents, despite their unfortunate circumstances, in such a good mood,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kerlon Williams, a preventive medicine technician with 3rd Medical Battalion. “It was a great feeling to know we were able to bring a little more happiness into their lives.”
Community relations events are intended to be a very positive experience, said Foshee.
“Being able to spend time with the residents of the center is not an opportunity many people get to experience,” said Foshee. “Our lives have been definitely strengthened by the courage these people have allowed us to witness.”
The goal for the center is to be able to provide the framework for a life for the residents, said Baird.
“The center is able to provide education, assistance and most importantly a greater chance at life,” said Baird. “There is life after HIV, it just takes working at it and we are here to help as much as we can.”
U.S. service members are here in support of Exercise Cobra Gold 2012, a recurring multinational and multiservice exercise co-hosted annually by the U.S. and the Kingdom of Thailand.
Cobra Gold 2012 is the 31st iteration of the exercise, which is designed to advance regional security by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region.