ORANGE, Calif. --
Five Marines and one Navy hospital corpsman with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit paid a surprise visit July 21 to a summer camp for children infected or affected by HIV or AIDS.
Arriving in two Humvees and a 7-ton truck, the service members parked outside the Camp Kindle West cafeteria, out of which a group of cautious 7 and 8 year olds peered at the visitors.
The Marines, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., greeted the children, and the children, after exploring the vehicles and equipment, quickly loosened up.
“It’s exciting to show the children the things that we do and the equipment that we use,” said Sgt. Benny Roybal, 26.
The Marines made fast friends in the children, who arrived in groups of about 15 to try on body armor, climb into the vehicles and occasionally honk a horn.
“It was great seeing how the children reacted knowing that all the gear works and protects us,” Roybal said. “The children were also comforted knowing the troops are safe wearing it.”
The visit gave the children positive people to talk to one-on-one, said Sarah Sterns, Camp Kindle staff director.
The Marines ate lunch with the campers, who mingled around the Marines and asked questions.
This was a great opportunity to come out and interact with the (children),” said Cpl. Michael Wu, 23. “It’s a good feeling knowing I was able to influence them.”
To some children, the Marines became role models – mascots even, considering one group of boys changed their cabin name from “Pirates” to “Marines.”
“I love dealing with the kids,” said Wu. “One thing I heard today was ‘I want to be a Marine some day.’ I was able to encourage them.”