EILAT, Israel — The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), along with embarked Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU), stopped for a scheduled port visit in Eilat, Israel Feb. 12-16.
While in port Sailors and Marines had the opportunity to enjoy liberty and participate in tours to the Dead Sea, Masada, and Jerusalem provided by the ship's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program.
Cpl. Leonel Sanchez, from Miami, took part in multiple tours and enjoyed his experience.
“I loved Israel. The tours that I went on were very fulfilling. I went on the tour of Jerusalem city, and it was a culture shock to see all the different religious traditions practiced within such a small area,” said Sanchez.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Joseph Tamayo, from Atlanta, said his favorite thing about the tours was seeing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
“Seeing the stations was incredible, and the energy there was amazing. It was very life changing for me because it’s something you don’t see back home. You get to witness all believers and thousands of people that visit the church. Getting to experience that made me feel stronger and believe more in my faith.” said Tamayo.
Master Chief Personnel Specialist Jimmie McNuckle, from West Point, Miss., enjoyed the hospitality.
“I loved the way they embraced us. Everywhere I went it seemed as if the locals were catering to what they thought we would enjoy.
The hospitality was gracious and the people were so nice,” said McNuckle.
During the tours Sailors and Marines enjoyed the local food and shopping.
“Some of the shopping that I did was my favorite because I came here and personally got the experience, however, many of my loved ones back home are not able to take the same type of trip. It felt really good to bring a couple of things back so that way they can relate to what I saw,” said Sanchez.
Although other ships have traveled to Israel before, this port visit is one that isn’t common for a West Coast homeported ship.
“This port visit was important to Boxer because we have seen something most Sailors have not. This port visit took Boxer to a new level and makes us different from most traditional Western Pacific deployment,” said McNuckle.
McNuckle hopes that Sailors and Marines took away a valuable experience from Israel.
“We were greeted and treated with kindness and gratitude from the port brief personnel to the tour guides. Israel will always be remembered and I hope Sailors and Marines never forget this [experience],” he said.
Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility.