YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) – Sailors from the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) participated in a number of community relations (COMREL) event during their time in port Yokosuka June 2016 to February 2017.
Antietam led or participated in nine community relations or service projects including, environmental cleanliness, visiting the elderly and orphans, and cultural exchange programs.
One hundred and twelve Sailors have donated time to different projects which have continued building positive relationships with the local Yokosuka, Japan, community.
"I feel happy to be volunteering and giving back to the community," says Electronics Technician 3rd Class Michael Danisz. "We make a living from what we get, and we get a life from what we give."
Antietam had the opportunity to lead a sponsorship program, for the third year in a row, to collect Christmas gifts for a local orphanage. From November to December 2016, Antietam held a command-wide gift drive for the children of Miharu Orphanage in Yokohama. Thirty-five Sailors donated $1,000 worth of Christmas gifts for 54 children at the orphanage.
The highlight of the project was when 12 Antietam Sailors and 5 family members visited Miharu Orphanage on December 22 to deliver the collected presents.
The Sailors arrived at the orphanage to attend the annual Christmas party. The children celebrated with a variety of performances including singing, dancing, and playing traditional drums. Chief Petty Officer Matthew Cuccaro dressed in a Santa Claus costume as he handed out gifts to each of the children in the orphanage.
Mr. Hideaki Kaichi, the principle of the orphanage said, "Your attendance to the Christmas party made our children from infant, grade school, and high school children happy and had more enjoyable time. Children who sat on Santa Claus[‘] lap looked shy, but at the same time, [were] very happy. We are so grateful for the Christmas gifts that are so special and valuable."
Antietam Sailors have also helped pick up trash for several blocks in the Kurihama area as part of a COMREL event sponsored by Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka. Sailors from USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) and USS McCampbell also attended the cleanup efforts.
For two hours, Sailors walked several blocks of Kurihama, picking up trash and interacting with local people. Some locals approached the Sailors to express their thanks for the cleaning efforts.
Antietam Sailors look forward to more opportunities to serve the local community.
"Sailors constantly come to my office asking when the next COMREL project will be, and our sign-up sheets are filled almost instantly whenever I put them up," says Lt Jisup Choi, Antietam’s Chaplain.
The COMREL program organizes events for Sailors to reach out to help local communities. Volunteer events go a long way into strengthening the positive relationship the U.S. Military personnel celebrate with Japan.
Antietam is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.