ABOARD USS PELELIU -- The long days of a Western Pacific deployment can turn monotonous at times, with Marines aboard ship limited to various activities. While most occupy themselves by going to the ship’s gym to lift weights, others choose to watch movies or numb their thumbs playing video games. To help pass the time, two Marines currently deployed with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) have taken on responsibilities as role models to two children thousands of miles away.
Sergeants Heath A. Causey and John P. Morin, Radio Battalion detachment, 13th MEU (SOC) Command Element Intelligence, began corresponding with 9-year-old Katie and 6-year-old Karen Koes and their family near the beginning of the MEU’s deployment.
According to Christina Koes, mother of Katie and Karen, and her husband Nick, their decision was made to have their daughters correspond with service members deployed following the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
“We explained to them that there was good and bad in this world and that the bad would be taken care of,” she said. “What has brought them comfort more than any of our explanations is their understanding that the United States has a strong, capable military force. When we follow the news, they understand clearly that the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces will make sure they are safe in their beds every night.”
“They know Mark and John are helping them stay safe,” she said.
According to Causey, he thinks it’s good for the kids to have a role model to look up to.
“When I was growing up I had my uncle, who was a Marine, and my grandfather, who was in World War II and in Korean War, to look up as my idols,” Causey, an electronics signals intelligence analyst.
According to Causey, when the opportunity to correspond with the children was presented to him, he jumped right on it. It was a chance for him to be a positive role model for the children, he said, similar to the experience he had as a child looking up to his grandfather and uncle.
The correspondences with the children and their family have been very uplifting, said Morin, an Arabic linguist.
“I’m not married and I don’t have a lot of people writing to me,” Morin said. “The only people I get anything from are my parents and sister. It’s nice to have someone else out there who cares about me and can give me some uplifting words every once in a while. This is a long deployment and we need that sort of stuff.”
According to Causey, most of his conversations with the Koes consist of normal everyday topics such as how they are doing and updates on everyday family or work-related subjects.
“Whenever they have family picnics or one of them (children) gets in trouble they would write to us about it,” said Causey. “They’re really nice people.”
One letter Causey particularly enjoyed was when he found out the children were getting into sports. According to Causey, he shared his past experiences playing sports in high school and gave the children tips on what to do to improve.
“I try to give them encouraging remarks,” said Causey.
“It feels good writing to the kids,” he said. “It’s pretty cool seeing the kids grow up through email. When I see an email from them, it’s like ‘Alright, I got a letter from the Koes, I need to write them back’.”
“It has been a privilege to correspond with our two adopted Marines,” said Christina Koes. “The girls fill them in on the happenings of home. They have been patient and kind with the girls. Even with the momentous events our Marine friends have been contending with, they have found the time to congratulate the girls on the little events in their lives that are important to them and encourage them in their education.”
The correspondence was a chance for Causey to do something positive not only for himself, but for the children as well.
“I think it’s an important thing to do now a days,” he said, “to show (and give) them positive influences.”
“I think my husband and I have learned more from our correspondence than the girls,” said Koes. “The war on terror is not fought by a bunch of nameless and faceless people. It is fought by a couple of wonderful young men named John and Mark and all those who serve with them.”