CARLSBAD, Calif. --
The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Religious Ministry Team participated in a book drive at Aviara Oaks Elementary School, here, June 12, to collect books, which they will present to foreign school children during their deployment later this year, from the local community.
During the 15th MEU’s last deployment nearly two years ago, it conducted training and community relations events in several countries. The sailors and Marines spoke to local communities, sang songs and played basketball with children, while they also presented English textbooks, sporting goods and hygiene gear to the communities. This year, the Religious Ministry Team will be stocked with books and similar gifts.
“When [the MEU] said they needed books after the last deployment, it was the perfect opportunity for us to do the right thing,” said Kimberly Huesing, principal, Aviara Oaks Elementary School. “This is a very generous community, and us being able to reach out and affect children in another nation is also a good way to teach our children to help others.”
Huesing said she, her staff and students were so thankful to the MEU for participating in their Veterans Day program that the school wanted to return the favor and help the MEU collect books before their next deployment. She spread the word and hosted the book drive at the school, eventually collecting enough books to fill a large truck. As soon as the sailors and Marines pulled into the school, parents and children came carrying handbags and boxes full of children’s books for the cause.
“This is kids helping other kids live a better future. We’re just the middlemen behind this act of charity,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Edward J. DeBaun, religious programs specialist, 15th MEU. “It’s good the public can see the military is there to help other countries and work with the local community.”
The MEU is currently training for its deployment, with many exercises designed to prepare the Marine Air Ground Task Force for missions ranging from humanitarian assistance to combat. Projects like these allow the MEU to take a break from the intense training and interact with the local community.
“I like working with the children and seeing how much they care,” said DeBaun, 34, from Valley Springs, Calif. “There are a lot of people that care about the military and their efforts to help other countries.”