We worked an extra shift at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society today (Monday) at the request of the director. She is out of town this week and had only one volunteer scheduled for today, so we stepped in and worked so there was more than one person in the office. I had one very interesting case. A young 2nd Lt that graduated from the Naval Academy May 24 had not yet been paid. When he left the Naval Academy they coded his pay entry wrong and the pay center in Kansas is having trouble unraveling it. So he has not received any pay since May 1, and he has bills to pay. We have something called a bridge loan just for such cases. It is not the first time there have been pay problems for marines. Anyway, as soon as I heard his story I told him I was an alumni too, and we had fun telling stories about the Naval Academy in between doing our paperwork. I was able to give him a check for $1300 as he left and he was very happy. We next delivered about 15 plates of our 4th of July cookies and messages. It was very hot, but still great fun to see so many of our outstanding marine families. They were all appreciative of the treats and we got to go in and chat with several of them to get out of the heat for a few minutes. After a quick dinner out we met with an inactive young family that we have been working with. He has been here about a year but just got base housing, so his wife and two daughters just moved in a couple of months ago. They are a nice young family and we would love to get them back to church. There are so many marines in our ward that would just surround them with friendship, help and love. We are starting to really love this young family and hope that we can help them out a bit. They have no car right now so we are trying to help them get around.
Our Tuesday began with a District Training Meeting. We have a new district leader, and he did an excellent job in organizing the meeting. We had some good training and we felt inspired to see the dedication of these young elders and sisters. They take their work very seriously and are mature beyond their years in the things they accomplish. We continued our delivery of 4th of July treats but we had much more driving this time. We are about done with our on base deliveries, but have about 6 off base marine families to see. They all live far apart, so we put a hundred miles on the car today just driving between home and several small towns near the base. But once again we had wonderful visits, and we love to see all of these families. Tuesday evening is always our The Basic School (TBS) family home evening. Our big group graduated, so we only had two at FHE, a marine and his wife. But we had a nice discussion about freedom and tolerance. The young marine that was there is taking the initial physical test to get into Infantry Officers School on Tuesday. From what we have heard this is a very difficult test where they run around in full pack and gear all day, doing maneuvers, running obstacle courses, and doing physical tests. Usually about a third of those that take it do not pass. So our young marine asked for a blessing, which I was able to give him. It was a sweet moment and we feel privileged to serve young marines like this one. (P.S. He did pass the test!). Here is an excerpt from an email message we received today from one of our marines that just graduated from TBS and has moved on to his next training at an Army base. What a tender mercy. Thank you so much for your love and support! I am now at Ft Benning getting settled in, and I miss Virginia already! I never thought that I would miss Quantico! Thank you for the book you gave me! I haven't been to busy so far, but I have needed some uplifting thoughts so it is the perfect gift! Thank you also for taking us to the Naval Academy and the Parade and always thinking of us! I miss you both! We are so lucky to work with these young marines.
Wednesday we got to attend a reenlistment ceremony for a Navy Religious Programs Assistant that we work with. He is the assistant to the chaplain at TBS, so we see him whenever we are there. He has helped us out with several things throughout the months. Usually when we finish with our Tuesday family home evenings we leave a treat on his desk for him to find on Wed morning. so he likes us! He invited us to his reenlistment so we went. It was a nice ceremony and we got to say hello to several of the chaplains and the other lay leaders we know. They are very supportive and appreciative of the work we do with the marines. Our final task of the day was to attend the Officer Candidate School family home evening. It went very well, with twelve attending. Our 2 six-week groups are finished now, so none of them were there. We had a good lesson and lots of good discussions with the marines afterwards. One of the non-member guys that usually comes told us he was interested in learning more about the church. So Sunday when he has liberty after our church service we are going to meet with him and his member friend and teach him a lesson. He seems like a sponge right now and is really asking a lot of questions and making good comments during the Sunday lessons and Wednesday family home evenings. It will be fun to see him away from the group for a couple of hours. Here are photos of our Wednesday night group of marines.
We headed to the base bright and early this Thursday morning and attended the OCS graduation of one of the summer companies. We got to sit in one of the reviewing stands. Before the ceremony began, the head chaplain came up and thanked us for our service and told us that he had had very good feedback from the LDS marines and those others attending our services that we were really meeting their spiritual needs. That was very humbling and gratifying. Even though the marines are always so appreciative, it was a surprise to hear it from a third party. We only had one LDS guy in this group, but a lot of others had attended our services as guests. So we knew several that were graduating. The marines really know how to do ceremonies well, so it was great. They start with the excellent Quantico Marine Band marching on. Then the OCS students march on looking very sharp. About ten awards are presented to the top candidates. A general gives a short speech, and today his talk was actually quite good. He kind of reminded them that although OCS is an important step in becoming a successful marine officer it is just the first step and there is much more to learn. Then the OCS students all march past the reviewing stand looking outstanding. Finally the commanding officer says to the platoon commanders, “Dismiss your troops.” They dismiss all the marines and all the parents and family members run out and greet them. It is very cool. We got to meet the family of our one LDS guy from Alaska and they were great. The parents always thank us for looking after their children while they are here. We also met the family another of our guys that came to most of our meetings as a guest. He is from Hawaii. Lezlie had exchanged many emails and phonecalls with his mom and dad transmitting messages back and forth to and from their son. It was fun to meet them and they brought us a box of macadamia nut chocolates and a carryall all the way from Hawaii. It was a fun graduation parade and it made us proud to be a small part of the process. After that we visited two far flung families in Stafford. We presented them with our 4th of July treats and messages and finally came home. This marked the end of our holiday deliveries. We passed out 25 plates of cookies in all, and had some wonderful experiences doing it.
Happy 4th of July. After a day of catching up we attended the Ward 4th of July celebration, and it was a unique event. A family in our ward (the past bishop) happens to live right next to a golf course, and his back yard opens right out onto one of the fairways. The community has a large fireworks display that is set off from the golf course just about a hundred yards from his house. So for many years the ward 4th of July party takes place at his house. Everyone brings blankets, lawn chairs and deserts. They have a large table of deserts in their back yard, and everyone spreads out on the golf course to eat goodies and watch the fireworks. Of course all of the neighbors do the same thing, so there were about 400 people there, about half of which were our ward members. It was great fun to visit in a relaxed setting like that. The fireworks show was spectacular, especially since we were so close. Best of all one of our young bachelor marines came. He has not attended any church event since we arrived. He is the one that just had the major surgery. The ward really reached out to him during that time, and it seemed to have touched him in some way. We had given him a plate of cookies with an invitation to the party, but we have invited him to many things before and he never came. So we were surprised and happy when he showed up. The ward members were very friendly to him, and he seemed to enjoy it. We now hope we can get him to come to church. These are pictures of the 4th of July party on the golf course. The fireworks were spectacular- some of the best we have seen for a long time, and we had primo seats!
On Saturday we traveled to the base and met with a young marine family that is less active at church, the ones we mentioned above. They currently have no car, so we took the wife and 2 year old daughter shopping. She got about two weeks worth of groceries. She seemed very pleased to get that done. Although they are trying to get another car her husband is a fairly young enlisted man, so his pay is not much. So we are going to act as their “wheels” until they can get some transportation. It was enjoyable to spend a few hours with this young lady and to get to know her a little better.
Our early morning Officer Candidate School Sunday service was small today with only 3 students attending. However, we had a great lesson and good chats with the gang. The first wave of six week classes is over and the next wave does not start for a few days. So we only had the group that is in the ten week class, and they have liberty now so many of them were out in town. Still, it is always a joy to meet with these fine young men and women and hear their life stories. We feel privileged to work with them. One young man was asking a lot of questions about life in the military. He is in law school and wants to be a marine lawyer. However, it sounds like his wife is not keen on the idea. He was trying to get some idea about what he could say to her that might smooth things a bit, as he is already well on the path to becoming a marine lawyer. All we could say is that military life can be hard on families, but it can also bring out strengths and foster closeness. As it says in Doctrine and Covenants 122:7 “…know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” The 3 marines that attended our service, plus a Catholic candidate that straggled in after his service was over, ate two plates of breakfast pizza that normally could have fed ten. Their appetites are unbelievable. They told us that yesterday they did a nine mile hike with full packs among other physical challenges, so no wonder they are always hungry. We had a very nice sacrament meeting at our own ward, but we came home after that. Lezlie is still getting over her cold, and all the talking at church was making her cough a lot. We came home and she took a two hour nap, quite unusual for her. So this evening she is doing much better.
We were thrilled to hear that Chris and Stacey are going to come out to visit in August. We miss all of you so much! But we love what we are doing as well, and feel we are making a difference here. The time is going very fast. It is great being senior missionaries. We are receiving many, many blessings.