USS CHAFEE, Pearl Harbor, HI
-- Sparkling lights and dazzling decorations dawn most of the ships on the Pearl Harbor waterfront this time of year, but one ship has taken the spirit of the season to a whole new level. While Sailors aboard the USS CHAFEE
(DDG 90) indulge in a delightful feast of roast turkey and pumpkin pie prepared by the hands of exceptional culinary specialists on Christmas morning, their hearts are warmed by the thoughts and prayers of a small middle school in Ft. Stockton, Texas, as hundreds of letters and Christmas cards from students arrived just in time to remind the Sailors of the love they have back home.
Though many Sailors were able to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning with their families, some were unable to be with their loved ones during the Holidays. “The Holidays can certainly highlight any sense of loneliness we may be experiencing, especially for those folks who are far away from family,” commented LTJG Jami Talbott. “Knowing that someone is thinking of you makes it easier to commit to your personal sacrifices for the greater good of country." Combined with the endless effort put forth by Sailors on a daily basis to keep our ships at superior readiness condition, the stresses of the Holiday season can sometimes be forgotten, and so can the reason that many of our sailors chose to make the substantial sacrifice of putting their own lives on hold for a cause greater than themselves in the first place.
It was with those Sailors in mind that Zach Jones, an English teacher at Ft. Stockton Middle School, contacted the USS CHAFEE. “I am a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and as a vet, I came to realize very soon the one thing most vets and service members want is just a simple thank you.” The project began as a part of the curriculum for the English Language Arts classes, but soon, it became more than just another assignment, and students from across the school started to get involved in what became known as the “Adopt a Ship” program. Mr. Jones continued, “Parades are nice, statues and ceremonies are wonderful, but there is nothing like a genuine thank you from the people we were willing to defend that just lifts your spirits… Our goal was to simply show our appreciation to those who serve to help keep us safe and free.”
Nearly 250 personal letters and Christmas cards were distributed to the Sailors on duty for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Many hand-made posters and a giant banner were also displayed on CHAFEE’s mess decks honoring the Sailors and thanking them for their service. The generosity didn’t stop there though, as the coordinators on board the USS CHAFEE decided to do some giving of their own. “We felt that others should share in this generosity so we decided to find a small way to thank other service members,” said GMSA Jessica Smith. Many hand-made posters, emblazoned with the creative drawings of students, were shared with the USS RUSSELL, while a package, layered with candy, was sent with letters and Christmas greetings to a military police unit in Afghanistan with the hopes of bringing a little bit of joy to troops on the ground.
Back on the USS CHAFEE, Sailors were enthusiastic and grateful for the thoughtfulness of those young students back in Texas. “It was really sweet,” said FC3 Elizabeth Cotton as she was encouraged by her student not to give up on her hopes and dreams. Some Sailors even recorded video responses to their students with answers to questions regarding hobbies, ship life, family, and getting sea-sick. ET3 Ethan Reed shared his love for paintball with a student. “It brought me a lot of joy,” he said, and then he thanked the student for caring about the Sailors during the holidays. GSM1 Paolo Saldua shared a passion for volleyball with his student, and then gave a small tour of the propulsion plant control center.
Many other Sailors also took part in this project, and the coordinators hope to build on the newfound partnership with Ft. Stockton Middle School in the future. “It has been a great success so far, and I feel that a lot of positive things have come from the relationship between these students and sailors,” commented GMSA Smith. She went on to say, “We all appreciate the time and effort put forth by the students to make this happen, and I hope that we can continue to bring smiles to these students and our Sailors next year.”
USS CHAFEE is the 40th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and was built by Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. Her missions include anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare. It is capable of operating independently, or in support of carrier, expeditionary and surface strike groups in order to carry out national security objectives.