Havelock Elementary School students gathered last week to celebrate the support of the Marine unit that adopted the school five years ago.
"Five years they’ve been rocking and rolling," Principal Alexandria Aguiar said of the men and women of the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training at Cherry Point.
The children said thanks by singing songs and handing over a box of collected goodies to deliver to the Marines overseas.
"We love CNATT," Aguiar said. "They make a huge difference with our children. They tutor the fourth- and fifth-graders. They help them tutoring and with reading and math, and they are like a big brother and they have truly made a difference with our students. They come in and read for us at any time and we love it."
The feeling is mutual for the Marines, who get to spend time with the students in the school.
"We’ve been volunteers here for quite a bit now," Staff Sgt. Quinn Sawyer said. "For the last couple of years we’ve mentored the young students from (kindergarten) all the way to fifth grade. Last week we came and read Christmas stories to the kids. There’s a Scroogefest going on here soon that we’ll be part of. We handed out cookies for them. Anything volunteer wise that they need us to do we’ll do.
"I think it gives us a sense of pride because we’re giving back to the younger generations kind of like we got when we were their age, and also they get to see us active in our communities so hopefully when they get to our age they can aspire to be like we are, giving back."
The presence of the Marines serves as an example for the younger children, said Capt. Michael Dodson.
"It’s very important because the younger generation is the future of not just the Marine Corps but the future of the United States and what it’s going to be," he said. "Any time that we can come over and mentor and try to instill some good values and help the young folks out is just awesome and what we love to do."
The Marines show up at the school every other Tuesday, to the delight of the students, Aguiar said.
"They get real excited," she said. "We are very fortunate to have the military installation in our community because any time we give them a ring, they help us out, and having the units being willing to send out their Marines is key. They are very supportive."
And the kids respond by sending care packages that the Marines overseas appreciate in return.
"Whenever the mailroom comes down and says we just got a whole bunch of boxes in, the Marines just pile down there to see what kind of goodies they can get into," Dodson said. "It’s a great feeling knowing that the community supports you and that they are behind what you are doing over there. It’s a highlight."
Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28 in Afghanistan will soon be getting a box from the students with notes and other items.
"It just makes them know that other people in the community care about them," said Lance Cpl. Jared Brewster, of MWCS-28.