Cherry Point, other military personnel treated to day at national seashore

The Franklins got a little time away from the diapers on Friday, and they do appreciate it.

Cpl. Caleb Franklin and his wife Megan were among about 150 Marines, sailors, other military personnel and family members who enjoyed a day at Cape Lookout National Seashore, thanks to the Military Affairs Committee of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce.

The Cherry Point couple has a 3-year-old toddler and 7-week-old newborn.

“I’d like to thank them a thousand times,” Franklin said about the chamber’s annual Military Fun Day. “It’s always a great day to be away where we can have time with our family. We don’t get a lot of it. It’s great and very much appreciated.”

The couple had just walked the 207 steps to the top of the Cape Lookout Lighthouse after taking a 12-minute boat ride from Harkers Island to the national seashore.

“It’s pretty cool to see the distance on ever side. It’s pretty neat,” he said of the view from the top of the lighthouse.

Mike Wagoner, president of the Carteret chamber, said the event is the highlight of the year.

“The community is so connected to the military with the number of jobs that are created, and we like to show these young men and women how much we appreciate their service,” he said. “For many of them, this is their first opportunity to come to Down East Carteret County in North Carolina. We feed them a great pork chop luncheon and let them climb the lighthouse and just put their toes in the sand. Some are even brave enough to venture into the water.”

Cpl. Karolyn Riggs is an aviation ordnance technician with Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 at Cherry Point.

“It’s nice to get away from work, especially for those of us who have not seen the local attractions before,” she said. “We might have heard about these, but many of us might not have come here at all. We’re always so busy. It’s a great day for it. There’s a break in the rain.”

Lance Cpl. Justin Peck, also with VMAT-203, called climbing the lighthouse “exhilarating.”

“I think it’s pretty awesome,” he said. “I’m glad that they can give this to us. For them to offer this is awesome. I would hate being at the squadron and not being able to see the surroundings.”

Peck’s wife couldn’t make the trip, but he said he would like to bring to the seashore to view the Shackleford Banks wild horses.

“I saw some horses and she loves horses,” he said.

Cpl. Waymonlee Hughes, of Marine Wing Communication Squadron 28 at Cherry Point, brought his wife Brittanie Hughes for the day.

“It’s a gift,” the Marine said. “It’s really hard to get away from the house, especially without the kid.”

Their 1-year-old son stayed at home.

“This is like the third time we’ve been out this year. We don’t get out much,” he said. “I think it’s really cool. Most of the time we don’t have a lot of money to do something like this. A lot of times you don’t even hear about things like this much less go out and do it.”

Sgt. Chris Winston, a ground support equipment mechanic with Marine Transport Squadron One, came with wife Nicole Winston.

“I’ve been here before but I think this is a great opportunity, especially having so many people here,” Nicole Winston said. “I think it’s great that my husband has an opportunity to get off work and do this. The Marine Corps is really conducive to a family lifestyle.”

The sergeant said he appreciated the opportunity provided to the married Marines.

“As far as events like this, the Single Marine Program has a lot of opportunities like this but being able to do this as a married couple is real nice,” he said.

Cpl. Marcus Dorsey, of 2nd Low Altitude air Defense Battalion at Cherry Point, and his wife Bri Dorsey, came back home with a coconut that had washed up on the beach.

“I found that and a couple of shells,” he said. “The ranger said it probably came from somewhere in the Caribbean.”

When a group of Marines arrived back at the boat for the return trip to Harker’s Island, David Hill, a skipper for Island Express Ferry, had a question.

“Did you leave a donation at the Cape Lookout blood bank,” Hill asked. “We got these mosquitoes well trained over here.”

Indeed, the flying insects were voracious Friday in part due to the amount of standing water left over from to two weeks of rain and flooding.

“You know that they’re bad when you can hear them talking about whether to eat you now or take you home,” Hill quipped.