MANGILAO, Guam - USS Howard (DDG 83) Sailors shared the holiday spirit with at-risk youth from the Department of Youth Affairs (DYA) in Mangilao during a community relations (COMREL) project while in port on Guam, Dec. 24.
The Sailors, currently deployed within the Pacific area of responsibility, participated in various activities such as basketball, volleyball and pingpong. Youth had the opportunity to sit down with the Sailors as they discussed various topics from Navy careers and future life choices to favorite basketball teams.
Personnel Specialist 1st Class (SW/AW) Stuart Thomas participated in the COMREL event and said he was glad to be part of the activities, especially during the holiday season, as it gave him a chance to talk to the youth about his experiences and hopefully inspire them to do better.
"We like to keep up the good relationships between the Navy and our foreign countries and let them know we're here to support in any way we can," Thomas said. "I hope they look at us and say, 'Hey maybe I'd like to be like them. They're out here, they're supporting us while also being in the Navy and you get a little bit of both worlds.' Just because they might not be able to see their families, we're here to see them; we're here to help them celebrate Christmas."
DYA Director Adonis Mendiola said he was grateful to the Navy and Howard Sailors for volunteering to meet, interact with and talk to the department's clients.
"Obviously it is the season of Christmas, and I think the USS Howard and the Navy want to reach out and it's important that we all reach out even to people who seem undeserving," Mediola said. "I think it's very grateful for the folks at the USS Howard and the U.S. Navy to come out and touch the lives of our locals."
As an Army veteran, Mendiola said he understands the importance of the military's involvement with the community as it helps civilians understand more and appreciate the service and sacrifice service members make.
"This interaction gives (clients) a perspective that the freedoms that the armed forces provide and protect are something very much to be cherished," Mendiola said.
Howard Sailors will also spend time at the St. Dominic's Senior Care Home Dec. 26 to participate in various activities such as arts and crafts, caroling and assisting residents with meals.