PASCAGOULA, Miss. - Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) America (LHA 6) Sailors participated in a gift-giving event at Central Elementary School, Dec. 20.
Forty students were selected at random by the school's counselor based on their needs for the holiday season and for months to come.
Volunteers from America purchased various gifts for the students in order to give something back during the holidays. America Sailors have been mentors for Central students since March 2013.
Central Elementary School principal, Lisa Rex, expressed her gratitude for America's Sailors, their organization of the holiday gift-giving event and dedication to the school.
"We have an ongoing partnership with the Navy and they have been wonderful to us," said Rex. "The Sailors came up with the idea of picking 40 students who would need coats, shoes, mittens and gloves this season. So, obviously, the faculty at Central thought this was a fantastic idea."
America Sailors organized a command holiday tree display with angel ornaments called an Angel Tree. Sailors who wanted to participate in the event selected an ornament with a student's name on it. The student's coat size and shoe size were on the back of the angel ornament, as well as any gifts the student may be interested in receiving for the holiday.
Behind the Angel Tree event was Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Henry Becoat, who was very appreciative of all the support from the command and the school.
"The event today went great," said Becoat. "The best thing was that the kids who received gifts did not know that they were going to get them. Watching the kids open their gifts and seeing the surprise and smiles on their faces made it all worthwhile."
Capt. Robert A. Hall, Jr., commanding officer, PCU America, thanked the school for welcoming America's crew to participate in the event.
"Being in the Navy, it is important for us be involved with the surrounding community and interact with everybody," said Hall. "By doing this, we all have a better understanding of what we can do and accomplish together."
After opening the presents, many students immediately put on their new coats and shoes, and were very excited to get home and show their families all their gifts.
"We are overjoyed at the commitment America Sailors have made to Central," said Rex. "The kids are overjoyed as well. It's more than a present, it's the time commitment and it's understanding the needs of our students. That's what makes this day special."
"We want to thank Central Elementary School for letting America be part of this holiday season," said Hall.
America will be the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa class of amphibious assault ships. As the next generation "big-deck" amphibious ship, America will be optimized for aviation, capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and Joint Strike Fighter. The ship will provide flexible, multi-mission capabilities spanning from forward-deployed crisis response to maritime security operations.
The ship was christened Oct. 20, 2012 and is currently undergoing construction in Pascagoula, Miss. America is scheduled to be commissioned late 2014 in San Francisco.