Story Number: NNS140214-23Release Date: 2/14/2014 2:31:00 PM
From USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- More than 1,500 Sailors aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) gave their own Valentine's Day gift to the Hampton Roads region: Volunteering in an all-day community relations (COMREL) event in the Hampton Roads region, Feb. 14.
Lincoln Sailors volunteered at more than 40 different COMREL projects ranging from visiting local elementary and middle schools to cleaning parks to planting perennials.
The all-day volunteer effort in eight different cities in the region marks the second all-day COMREL initiated by USS Abraham Lincoln Sailors since the ship arrived in the area in August 2012. On Sept. 20, 2013, Sailors from the Lincoln volunteered more than 5,000 hours in a similar COMREL blitz.
In Newport News, Lincoln Sailors visited seven different elementary and middle schools, teaching students about our 16th president in honor of Abraham Lincoln's 205th birthday Feb. 12.
Capt. Karl Thomas, commanding officer, USS Abraham Lincoln visited various COMREL locations throughout the Hampton Roads region to thank his Sailors for their volunteerism.
"I was truly touched that there is so much goodness that goes on in the community, and that our Sailors were enthusiastically involved in making a difference today," said Thomas. "I'm very proud to be their commanding officer, and to know that the Abraham Lincoln crew truly made a difference across Hampton Roads in so many different ways."
Other Sailors, such as Lt. Josh Wyatt of Lincoln's Operations Department worked alongside Sailors from the carrier's Medical department sorting donated clothing at Union Mission Ministries in Norfolk.
"Anytime we can lend a hand for the community in need is a great opportunity," said Wyatt.
Sailors assigned to Lincoln's Engineering department volunteered at an assortment of sites in the Hampton Roads region, including the Virginia Beach Farmers Market, Fort Monroe Community Center, North Phoebus Community Center, PETA, and the Hampton City Hall.
"My entire team from work control is helping to build fences, improve the landscaping, and clean up the grounds at PETA," said Senior Chief Machinist's Mate Reynaldo Alcantara.
More than 46 other Sailors from Lincoln's Engineering department planted 1,000 perennials at the Hampton City Hall's Honor Park, which is a memorial park dedicated to the fallen men and women from the police force and military.
"This is a team building experience for us and a way to give back to the community; honoring those who have fallen and making these monuments a better place for everyone," said Machinist's Mate Fireman Apprentice Travis Hayes.
Cmdr. Carl Koch, command chaplain aboard Lincoln, was amazed by the high spirits and fast pace of the volunteers planting perennials at Hampton City Hall's Honor Park.
"You can't beat the Lincoln's Sailors coming out here to help the local community," said Koch. "It's not their home community but it's a community they've adopted and who have adopted them. It's a great opportunity."
One of the master minds behind the planning of the command's two all-day COMREL events is Personnelman 1st Class Mishell Brownlee who reflected on what Sailors gain from helping in the communities they work and live in.
"This is the community we work and live in day in and day out," said Brownlee. "Sailors who help out with our command COMRELs can walk away feeling better about helping others and gain valuable career enhancement opportunities."
Sailors assigned to Lincoln's Reactor department ventured out to Carrolton Nike Park to help remove downed limbs and clean up shelters in the park.
"This is my first community project with Reactor department," said Machinist's Mate Fireman Apprentice Devin Hulstein. "The experience has been great."
These Sailors were more than happy to come out and help their community.
"Reactor department is always adamant about helping out with COMRELs," said Machinist's Mate 1st Class Matthew Theis.
While Reactor Sailors were adamant about volunteering, other Sailors from Lincoln's Weapons and Transportation departments were eager to volunteer at a local baseball field in Newport News.
"Weapons Department came out in full force to help out this area of Newport News," said Senior Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Kevin Nowlin. "The diversity and camaraderie of this group will make this a very successful project."
Sailors lined up on their measurements and pounded in posts and placed fencing, turning a mundane field into two usable baseball fields for the benefit of the community.
"We're all pretty excited about this project," said Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Andrew Nicoletti. "We're out here for the purpose of giving back to a community that has done a lot for us."
Sailors from another division within Reactor department volunteered to paint fences surrounding the Phoebus Little League baseball field.
Gerald Stutt, president of the Phoebus Little League appreciated Lincoln Sailors for providing their time and talents to mend the field's fences.
"This is a tremendous help," said Stutt. "To have Lincoln Sailors come out to assist us with our tremendous workload does a great deal more than they can understand."
Nearly half of the more than 40 different COMREL events planned were conducted in and around Newport News.
Sailors assigned to Lincoln's Air Department volunteered at Newport News Park and helped pick up fallen debris throughout the parks forest area.
"It's just our way of showing our appreciation for Newport News has done for us," said Lt. Albert Duckworth.
Sailors assigned to Lincoln's Air department volunteered at the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore. Jan Silva, Foodbank manager reflected on the impact the volunteerism by Lincoln Sailors provide to the community members they serve.
"This Tidewater location is more like a warehouse, but we serve approximately 1,000 people every month," said Silva. "We also have more than 400 partner agencies that give food to their local neighborhoods."
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Leon Johnson volunteered and reflected on giving back on Valentine's Day.
"The Command-wide COMREL is a good thing, especially on Valentine's Day, because many people out there don't have a lot of love in their lives and this is a way to help with that," said Johnson.
Lincoln Sailors continue to make a significant impact in the Hampton Roads region since the aircraft carrier arrived in Norfolk in August 2012, contributing more than 12,000 volunteer hours at various COMREL projects.
Sailors volunteered at the following locations:
- In Hampton: Sailors will volunteer at the following sites: Boo Williams Sportsplex, John B. Cary Elementary School, Transitions Family Violence Services, The Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula, Virginia Space and Air Museum, Hampton City Hall, North Phoebus Community Center, North Hampton Community Center, Bethel Landfill, Phoebus Little League, Hampton City Honors Park, and Sandy Bottom Nature Park;
- In Newport News: Newport News Park, Horace H. Epes Elementary School, Magruder Primary School, Newsome Park Elementary School, Jenkins Elementary School, Yates Elementary School, Dozier Middle School, Passage Middle School, Crittenden Middle School, Virginia Living Museum, Habitat for Humanity Re-store, Peninsula SPCA, and Denbigh Youth Basketball League.
- In Norfolk: Ronald McDonald House, The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore, PETA, Union Mission Ministries, Norfolk Zoo, Eggleston's Tanner Creek Nursery, Forkids' Haven House, Elmwood Cemetery, and Good Mojo Thrift Store;
- In Fort Monroe: Sailors will be volunteering at the following sites: Fort Monroe Community Center and Fort Monroe;
- In Portsmouth, Va.: Oasis Social Ministry;
- In Virginia Beach, Va.: Virginia Beach Highway Clean-up and Virginia Beach Farmers Market;
- In Yorktown, Va.: Chesapeake Arboretum;
- In Carrolton: Carrollton Nike Park.
Lincoln is currently undergoing RCOH at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.
Lincoln is the fifth ship of the Nimitz class to undergo a RCOH, a major life-cycle milestone. Once RCOH is complete, Lincoln will be one of the most modern and technologically advanced Nimitz-class aircraft carriers in the fleet and will continue to be a vital part of the nation's defense.
For more news from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn72/.