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Devildocs visit school, brighten children's day

Date Posted: 2004-05-20

CAMP MCTUREOUS, Okinawa, Japan — Plastered in the windows of Bechtel Elementary School on Camp McTureous are the faces of numerous kindergarten students eagerly awaiting the arrival of some special visitors.

Although these visitors are normally found in the field with survival gear on their bodies and medical tools in hand, they arrive Bechtel with smiling faces and caring attitudes.

Each Friday, volunteers from 3rd Medical Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group on Camp Hansen spend time with the individual kindergarten classes at Bechtel, something the battalion has been very proud of for several years now.

“Volunteers have been going to Bechtel Elementary School once a week for three years now,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Rachael A. Tayamen, religious program specialist, 3rd Medical Battalion, 3rd Force Service Support Group. “The battalion has been slated to serve as mentors to the six kindergarten classes at the school.”

At least six different volunteers assist the school every week for the different kindergarten classes. With one corpsman assigned to each class, the Sailors spend time with the children doing a variety of activities.

“Two favorite activities for the volunteers are to read to the children and play with them at recess,” Tayamen added. “They also spend time helping the students with their projects and school work.”
After finger painting, reading stories and dancing the “hokey pokey” with the kids weekly for the past three years, the Sailors have developed a special place in their hearts for the kindergarten classes.
“Doing this stuff makes me feel like a kid again,” said Seaman Jeremy C. Schaefer, field medical corpsmen, 3rd Medical Battalion. “It’s nice to feel like you’re part of another family like this when you’re serving overseas.”

Since the program began three years ago, the battalion and the school have developed a strong relationship. Both parties realize the time spent once a week together with the kindergarten classes is something very important for the community.

“These children will be our future and they need to be supported and affirmed,” Tayamen expressed. “If their parents are deployed, I think that it is good for the children to have the opportunity to relate to another military member that can encourage them.”

The Sailors from 3rd Medical Battalion are not the only volunteers who help out at the school. With volunteers sent from various units on Okinawa to the school, the students of Bechtel have also expressed their appreciation towards all servicemembers who serve as mentors there.

“The school loves this program,” Tayamen continued. “Every spring before the school year ends they have a volunteer appreciation day. Each class puts on their rendition of the different units that volunteer at the school. I know that the teachers also appreciate a pair of helping hands in the class room.”

With successful efforts draping the past three years between the battalion and Bechtel, There are no plans for the regular visits to stop.

“I feel it’s important to continue this project every week because a part of serving our country is also taking time to serve and care for our families,” Tayamen concluded.

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