The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis sailed into Pattaya waters recently carrying several thousand military personnel who were due to take part in the annual Cobra Gold Military Exercises.
For the US Navy personnel on board the ship it means a time of sacrifice, being away from family and loved ones and also working in an environment that can be unpredictable at times.
Coming to Thailand and being part of the Cobra Gold Exercises gives them exposure to another culture and a different way of life than what they are used to at home and on board ship.
One group from the ship recently visited the Father Ray Foundation where they spent a morning not only meeting the children and students, but also having a lot of fun.
They played soccer at the Father Ray School for Children with Special Needs, and while they played well it was the local children who won.
When asked if there any basketball players among the visitors, several hands were raised. A few boasted of how well they played at college, and they laughed when it was announced that the students at the Foundation would be giving them a few lessons.
The laughing stopped when they realised they would be playing basketball at the Technological College for People with Disabilities, and they would be playing while sitting in a wheelchair. Once again the local students won.
Being away from their own children can be difficult for the sailors, male and female, so their visit to the Father Ray Day Care Center brought smiles to everyone’s faces. You could see the joy in the faces of the visitors, it must have made them think of their own children, and how they were missing them. The toddlers were a bit nervous at seeing so many big people, all wearing camouflage, but once the ice cream was passed around everyone relaxed.
The Father Ray Foundation has been welcoming the US armed forces since the early 1970’s when Father Ray was still starting out with his social work here. Forty five years later as each year the Foundation welcomes back old friends and makes new ones.