13th MEU Marines and Sailors lend helping hand during holiday deployment

24 Dec 2003 | Sgt. Mark P. Ledesma

While many people spent time with loved ones during the holidays, several Marines and Sailors currently deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) rolled up their sleeves and picked up shovels to help clean up a local Christian cemetery during a port visit in Dubai Dec. 24.

The clean-up project was a one of several community relations projects the MEU has conducted during port visits.  This particular project was considered special because this was the second time the Fighting 13th has helped clean the same place.  In November, Marines and Sailors cleaned the cemetery under the hot-bright sun, shoveling sand off the graves weathered by the region’s sand storms.

According to Rev. Steven Miller, who assists in organizing the volunteer work, the build up of the sand is caused by wind carrying it over the short wall on the eastern and southern ends of the cemetery.

“When we get (heavy) winds in the winter the sand blows right in,” said Miller.  “Within three days we can get up to six feet of sand.”

For some who volunteered for the second time, the clean up was a chance for them to see if their work from the last visit was maintained.

“I wondered before going whether it was going to be how (we left it) or if it has improved,“ said Cpl. Rico Negron, Command Element legal chief, 13th MEU (SOC).

According to Negron, the locals maintained and cleaned up a lot of the mess.

“I saw a lot of improvement from the work we did this time,” said Negron.

According to Negron, the first time they came to the cemetery its walkways were buried under sand and most of the graves were covered up.

“Now the walkways are visible,” he said.  “You can see a lot of the graves.  There was a big improvement.”

The volunteer work he did made him feel like he made a difference, said Negron.

“People can now see their loved one’s gravesite when before they couldn’t,” he said.

According to Miller, the Marines and Sailors did an outstanding job.

“I’m very grateful for the job they did over here,” he said.

13th Marine Expeditionary Unit