CAMP DARBY, Italy (AFPN) --
They are separated by generations and age, they don't wear the same uniform and they don't even speak the same language, but the 31st Munitions Squadron Airmen here and veterans of the Italian Folgore Parachutist Brigade were bought together with the common goal of refurbishing the Italian veterans hall.
Master Sgt. James Poole, the 31st MUNS first sergeant, was looking for a way to get his troops involved in the local community, build bonds and express gratitude to the host nation. He discovered that Associazione Nazionale Paracadutisti D'Italia, the Italian equivalent of the Veterans of Foreign War organization in the U.S., was looking for strong bodies to help repair their building in the center of Livorno, a port town on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
"I believe that helping people is an internal desire we all have and by providing this opportunity to volunteer to my Airmen, they could venture out in the community and make a difference," said Sergeant Poole. "I am proud of the Airmen who came forward to help out; it speaks volumes about their character."
On the first day, when the troops arrived on the scene, they did an assessment to decide what tasks could be tackled and what repairs were feasible.
One young Airman noticed a bulletin board bolted into a cement wall and asked if they should leave it and paint around it or remove it and re-plaster the wall.
"Let's remove it, we've got plaster," responded two other enthusiastic Airmen.
As the days passed, the Airmen scrapped away layers of paint; behind the economic flat white was a golden yellow belying of a different time. Layer upon layer, the Airmen sweated and toiled until they reached dark, grey crumbling cement.
Covered in paint specks and dusts, Senior Airman Gregory Skidmore said he was glad to get out into the local community and make a difference.
"When you get to volunteer, to help others in a foreign country, you get to see things that you wouldn't normally see," said Airman Skidmore. "I never thought about there being organizations like the VFW in other countries. My wife, who is Italian, was happy and surprised that I was having this opportunity to lend a hand of friendship during the course of a normal work week."
Airman 1st Class Jennifer Reiff added that she had been stationed in Italy for two years and it felt great to her to be able to contribute to fellow vets in her host nation.
"Coming here and helping really raised my morale and makes me glad to able to serve my county and help out others," said Airman Reiff.
Italian Brig. Gen. Salvatore Iacono, president of the Livorno ANP branch, expressed his heartfelt thanks to the Airmen for their hard work and restoration efforts.
"Work of this nature has a cost, and our association doesn't have profits to cover this; so we really appreciate all of the work, time and exertion the Airmen have done this week," said General Iacono. "I was the Italian base commander of Camp Darby from 2000 to 2002, and I am glad to see that there's continued good will cooperation between American and Italian NATO allies."
Also appreciative was the commander of the 31st MUNS, Lt. Col. Tammy Cobb.
"This really shows you what type of people we having serving in our Air Force," said Colonel Cobb as she surveyed the work of her Airmen. "Not only did these fine, young Airmen volunteer to serve their country, they volunteered to come out to do hard work for 'comrades in arms' and fellow veterans."
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