The recent “Heroes BBQ Welcome” for the 3/5 Battalion held at Mariners Church was a perfect example of a win-win experience. Individuals, couples and entire families volunteered to thank the individuals, couples and entire families of Marines who came to enjoy the afternoon of fun, food and festivities designed to honor them.
“We are so honored that people made such an effort for us, to show their appreciation in such a great way,” said Marine Chaplain Aaron Wesson. “We all loved it, and the kids had a blast.”
Mariners Church adopted the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment (3/5) six years ago. The 3/5 was in Afghanistan until a few months ago and Chaplain Wesson voiced what so many felt.
“We can’t say enough about how much everybody’s prayers meant to us, we could literally feel the prayers, and I’m not just saying that. When we felt tired or stressed, the prayers gave us strength,” he said. “We ask that you keep the families of those who lost loved ones and those who were wounded in your prayers. There is nothing like the strength and power that comes from prayer. It’s huge.”
“This is the fourth year we’ve done this barbecue,” explained John Lorenz, Director of Local Outreach Ministries at Mariners. “This year it’s really meaningful, especially with the number lost and injured in Afghanistan. Also, these guys don’t have the chance to get together as a battalion for fun very often. This is really unique for them, and it means a lot. It also shows that a church can be cool. Some Marines stayed and went to the 5 o’clock Saturday service.”
John explained that the Marine Ministry aims to improve the Marines’ morale, their character and their faith. To do that, Mariners volunteers put on special events such as the annual BBQ and the Christmas party, baby showers, marriage seminars, ongoing help with a weekly chapel service, and sending gift boxes.
“The barbecue was a huge success; there were about 800 Marines, 300 wives and 300 children,” John said. “We also had almost 200 volunteers with the first crew arriving at 9 that morning. Because the church has such a heart for this ministry, we never had to recruit volunteers, and actually had to close volunteer sign ups!”
Newport residents Bill and Debbie Finster were two of those early volunteers. “Debbie and I have done this for three years, as well as being involved in other things at the base,” Bill said. “It’s amazing to see these guys, to think of what they do and all they go through for our county. We look forward to it every year.”
Families like the Nelsens volunteered together.
“I like to serve the Military and thank them for serving us,” said 8-year old Tanner Nelsen. “It’s a godly thing to do.”
“This is a great thing to do since they are protecting us,” added 11-year old Hunter Nelsen.
Scott Nelsen explained that he and his wife Monique have brought home several Marines from Camp Pendleton for Thanksgiving the last four years.
“We want them to feel like they have family,” he said. “It’s our way of thanking them for serving our country.”
“It’s a small way to give back and to thank the military. What they do for us means so much,” Monique added. “Most of them are from out of state; they need people to talk to, and need to hear God’s perspective. It means so much to bring these boys into our home. I write to their parents and Scott lets them call home. Our boys help pack goody bags for them when they leave our house.”
Vincent Hernandez, who has been with the 3/5 since 2008, shared his thoughts about the day.
“It’s a fun change of pace for us,” Vincent said. “Mariners Church does so much for us. They teach us how to come together and have fun as a family. We love the family activities. Our 6-year-old son Vincent especially loves the games and the face painting.”
Vincent’s wife Laura nodded in agreement.
“Mariners has helpful workshops, and when Vincent was deployed, Mariners Church was really there for us,” she said.
“The appreciation and support for what we do means so much to us; sometimes we feel forgotten,” Staff Sergeant McAdams added. “We appreciate everything we are sent too. It feels so good to receive mail; it’s such a morale booster and it helps make our day-to-day job easier. We love the packages and we really appreciate the prayers. Prayers are always good for us and for our families. Really, prayers are needed for those overseas as well as those coming home.”
Cindy can be reached at [email protected].