DARWIN, Australia -- While the sun was rising Aug 19, Marines and Sailors with 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) boarded buses and headed to a local homeless shelter to make a difference.
Led by Maj. William N. Pigott, staff judge advocate, 13th MEU (SOC) volunteers took time during their liberty to help at the Bakhita Centre, a homeless men’s shelter here. Initial renovations were started by Sailors of the USS Tarawa and Expeditionary Strike Group I the day prior.
“Our duties at the homeless shelter on (Aug. 18) included cleaning the area, pressure washing walls, scraping paint and preparing (a building) for painting,” remarked Pigott, clearly pleased with the effort put forth by the 13th MEU (SOC) volunteers. “Today we completed painting the building ahead of schedule in eight hours,” he added.
Armed with 45 gallons of various hues of paint, ladders, rubber gloves, paint rollers and enough paint brushes to make Leonardo DeVinci proud, the team of nearly 30 Marines and Sailors enthusiastically began the task of revitalizing the shelter.
The facility, run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society-- an Australian organization that provides drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs for long term residents, as well as a mobile meal service for people living in the open-- quickly took on a new look as layer upon layer of paint was strategically spread throughout the morning and early afternoon.
Marines and Sailors enjoyed lunch prepared by the shelter manager Mike Byrne, who explained that the sanctuary was designed to house homeless males until they are ready to transition back into mainstream society.
After lunch the 13th MEU (SOC) warriors put the finishing touches on the building by leaving behind an emblem of goodwill. Three artistic Marine volunteers painted a large four-foot by four-foot wall painting of the 13th MEU (SOC) unit insignia, featuring the national flags of both Australia and the United States and a banner with the symbolic phrase “Partners in Freedom.”
According to one of the contributing artists, SSgt. Oscar S. Luna, fire support chief, 13th MEU (SOC), the opportunity to make a positive impact in a foreign community was definitely a worthwhile experience.
“Completing this project gave me a great sense of accomplishment and I look forward to participating in many more events like this in the future,” smiled the Highland, Calif., native.
Byrne made it a point to recognize the efforts of the military volunteers as well.
“On behalf of myself and the residents of the Bakhita Centre, I would like to thank everyone who helped out today,” he said. “We hope to see you return to Australia in the future.”
For more information about the Fighting 13th MEU (SOC), visit the unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.