By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Ebalo, USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) Public Affairs
PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) participated in various community service projects June 28 to July 2 during a port visit to Pearl Harbor, in conjunction with the biennial multinational Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010 exercise.
During their stay, more than 50 Sailors volunteered their time to help out the local community with four different community service events on and off Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Sailors rolled up their sleeves and assisted in the preservation of the Battleship Missouri Memorial and performed landscaping and restoration at the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden, Waimea Valley Historical Nature Park and He'eia Stream.
"In addition to sightseeing and enjoying the local nightlife, I wanted to do something constructive with my free time, so I volunteered to help out at more than one event," said Aviation Boatswains Mate (Fuels) 2nd Class (AW/SW) Albert Vencer. "Being from Warren, Michigan, I never imagined I would ever be in Hawaii helping clear out a hiking path through the mountains, waterfalls and jungle. The sun was really hot out there and the mosquitoes were biting, but it was worth it. I enjoyed myself, and I found a new way to experience the island."
For some of the junior volunteers, it was their first time participating in the community relations projects, but not their last.
"I honestly had a lot more fun volunteering than I thought I was going to have," said Religious Programs Specialist Seaman Jakarta Henderson, a native of Augusta, Ga. "It was hard physical work, but it felt really good to help out and it was encouraging to see many of the senior Sailors leading by example in their off time. I was proud to represent our ship alongside them, and I'm looking forward to doing more in the future."
The community service effort of Bonhomme Richard's Sailors made an immediate impact on the locals.
"The work the Sailors put in will benefit the natural environment of Hawaii as well as the locals and tourists alike for decades," said Laurent Pool, Waimea Valley Historical Nature Park Conservation land specialist. "By clearing out the hiking paths we are able to identify and protect our endangered plants and trees and, most importantly, educate our kids and community on our beautiful surroundings. We are extremely grateful for their help and thank them for their service to our country and to Hawaii."
RIMPAC is the world's largest multinational maritime exercise, with 14 nations, 32 ships and more than 20,000 personnel participating in RIMPAC 2010. A biennial exercise, RIMPAC stresses the necessity of operational readiness in the Pacific and the sentiment that building relationships with our global partners ensures maritime freedom for all. This year marks the 22nd in a series of RIMPAC exercises conducted since 1971.