US Navy Divers, Waipahu Students Walk Tall to Promote Drug Prevention
Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1, accompanied by local firefighters and police officers, walked with teachers and students Feb. 6 to raise awareness about drug prevention.
The Waipahu Elementary School Drug Free Walk is an annual event held within the Waipahu neighborhood to promote education, mentoring and healthy lifestyle choices with a focus on drug prevention awareness.
“MDSU-1 has sponsored the drug free walk for the past five years,” said Cmdr. Thomas Murphy, MDSU-1 commanding officer. “We have also continued our relationship with the school in weekly health activities through the Waipahu Elementary School keiki fitness program.”
Before the start of the walk, Gary Chun, principal of Waipahu Elementary School, thanked sponsors as well as the Sailors assigned to MDSU-1.
“This walk sends a message that we care about their lives and to let them know that drugs is not the answer to living,” said Chun.
“Drugs destroy so many lives. It is important that we teach children the dangers of drugs and help them to grow in the right direction,” said MDSU-1 Construction Mechanic 1st Class Christopher Thorp.
“That’s why I am here every week leading the keiki fitness program, volunteering for the “Kindergartners Are Most Precious” program at the beginning of each school year and the “Read Aloud America” program every two years,” Thorp said.
The approximately one-mile walk started along Waikele Road, continuing through Pupupuhi Street and Pupukahi Street and Farrington Highway, as the students shouted “be drug free” along the route. Many drivers honked as they drove by to show their support.
“This event is great for the community. It brings the military and the locals closer together,” said Yeoman 2nd Class (EXW/SW) Andrew Linga of Los Angeles, assigned to MDSU-1. “By getting the students early with these events and the message it brings, the kids become aware that drugs are not a way to be, and we all see that with the flyers they’re holding up this morning.”
Thorp said all children deserve a safe and nurturing environment and to have positive role models in their community. “After all, they are our country’s future leaders,” he said.
Murphy explained the goals of the drug free walk for the neighborhood, led by Thorp and other members of the MDSU-1 team.
“When the community sees the Sailors involved, they know that we’re here and we care. It’s a big impact to them,” said Linga.
At the conclusion of the walk, Sailors served healthy snacks to the students.
“We hope to have a positive impact on the community and the students at Waipahu Elementary School. It is also important that the community sees that our Sailors care about the local community, the elementary school and, most importantly, its young students,” Murphy said. “We’re proud of who we are and what we do, and we’re proud to be supporting the students and local community,” he added.
“First off what we’re doing is planting seeds into the hearts and minds of the young,” said Chief Navy Diver (DSW/SS/SW) Donald R. Acker of Waianae, who welcomed every student with high-fives when they completed the walk.
“Drugs and alcohol all have bad effects on people when done improperly. For the neighborhood, I believe in a tipping point by us walking around like we did today. It gives them motivation and for hope and for something positive, something bigger and better than what they are by themselves,” Acker said.
Nelda Soosenuu, a parent whose son is in kindergarten, said, “The Sailors have been very supportive, and I know that the kids look up to them. It’s important to teach our kids while they’re still young to be drug free and as they get older, they’ll understand. I’m grateful that they’re all here today.”
MDSU-1 provides combat ready, expeditionary, rapidly deployable mobile diving and salvage detachments to conduct harbor clearance, salvage, underwater search and recovery, and underwater emergency repairs in any environment.
Naval Today Staff, February 8, 2013; Image: US Navy