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ATLANTIC OCEAN (July 2, 2023) It was Senior Chief Master-at-Arms Melissa Sheek’s last day in paradise. She was in Nassau, The Bahamas, known for its white sand beaches, turquoise water and impressive resorts. Rather than spending the remainder of her time relaxing at the beach or exploring the wonders of a local resort, she, along with 24 other Sailors, volunteered her time to mentor the youth of The Bahamas.
Sheek is assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp had an important mission that resulted in a three-day port visit in Nassau; they were to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bahamian independence and the 50-year relationship between the United States and The Bahamian nations. Sheek and other Wasp Sailors recognized the importance of this mission and understood that they were not only in The Bahamas to experience its many attractions; they were there to honor and strengthen the treasured partnership between the two countries.
“I am proud of the partnership we have with The Bahamas and the significance of the history that our ship has with the country,” Sheek said. “Our time in The Bahamas was more than just having fun; it was symbolic.”
Wasp’s time in The Bahamas was not only a symbol of the United States’ longstanding partnership with the country, but it was an opportunity to grow the United States’ connection with the Bahamian people. Sheek, who assisted in spearheading the revival of the Women Achieving Victory Every Step (W.A.V.E.S.) program aboard Wasp, wanted to help put together a community outreach event during Wasp’s visit.
“W.A.V.E.S. wanted to do an event in The Bahamas,” Sheek said. “We worked through the embassy and Chaplain [Lt. Brandy] Bennett to find something we could do. We were told that there was a center designed to help [youth]. Chief [Religious Program Specialist Joseph Jedding] took the male Sailors to the men’s facility, and Ensign [Jaliya] Wilson and I took the female Sailors to the women’s facility.”
On the morning of Friday, June 30, 2023, the Sailors packed into two vans; one going to the Willie Mae Pratt Centre for Girls, and the other going to the Simpson Penn Centre for Boys.
The facilities are meant to rehabilitate young men and women and prepare them for reintegration into society. The Sailors spent the day at the facilities, mentoring and bonding with the young men and women.
While Sheek hopes the experience sticks with the young women, she says the experience will stick with her.
“You can learn from everyone,” she said. “There are always things to learn from the people around you, regardless of their background. It was incredibly valuable being able to give back and receive knowledge from everyone in the room.”
Monique A. Greenslade, superintendent at the Willie Mae Pratt Centre for Girls, said she is certain that the young ladies took something away from the experience.
“I cannot say how important it is for persons who give service to their country to come in and do voluntary work,” Greenslade said. “It brings a spirit of hope to these young ladies and helps instill in them values and principles that will cause them to excel.”
Greenslade expressed her gratitude to the Wasp Sailors, and said she was happy and excited that they took time out of their busy schedule to visit the facility.
“Let me say how grateful we are that you took the time out while visiting this beautiful country called The Bahamas to come and do voluntary work,” Greenslade said. “You could have done many things, but you chose to come to the Willie Mae Pratt Centre for Girls.”
Sheek said she hoped the time Wasp Sailors spent with the youth showed the Bahamian people that they care. According to Greenslade, it did.
“On behalf of everybody, including the citizens of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, we are pleased that you all spent time with our beautiful young ladies,” Greenslade said. “Those same ladies, the faces you were looking into, are the future of the Bahamas. We will never leave one of them behind. They are very important to us, and I know they are important to you.”
Wasp Sailors will return home confident that their bond with The Commonwealth of the Bahamas and its people is stronger than when they arrived.
Wasp was in Nassau for a scheduled port visit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bahamian independence and an opportunity to strengthen the 50-year bilateral partnership with the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, an important relationship with a key regional partner.