Week 13 was a wonderful and productive week for us. It began on Monday morning the 30th of April. We didn’t go to the USO that day but used it as a preparation day and did cleaning and shopping throughout the morning. In the afternoon, we drove to Jacksonville Beach and met with Joyce at the USO and confirmed some dates where she wanted us to work and then had a very enjoyable meeting with Rebecca Cotton, a young Ensign in the US Coast Guard. She recently returned from a several month deployment into the Caribbean Sea and this was the first time we had met with her. She had recently graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut and served aboard the USS Valiant. She was a former missionary and very active in the YSA Branch in the stake. We explained our calling and enlisted her help in locating military members, especially singles and she was anxious to help. When we returned home, Pam received a video of Sherwood’s funeral and it was nice to see the family gathered at this sacred time.
May began on Tuesday and we had an appointment at the medical clinic where we received our third and “final” Hepatitis shots. Following that we went to a local Wal-Mart and Pam shopped for food items and I took the car around back to have a tire checked out as it was leaking air. The technician came out a little later and told me the hole was too big and they couldn’t fix it, and the tire needed to be replaced, but they also didn’t have that size tire in stock. I told them I would take it to a Cooper dealership as I had purchased hazard protection from them and that was settled. When Pam was done we drove to a Discount Tire outlet on Atlantic Blvd. The service writer came out and looked at the tire and I showed him the metal and he said they would check it out and I didn’t say anything about our stop at Wal-Mart. Well the bottom line was they fixed the tire? They also repaired the air sensing module on the rim for no charge! That certainly surprised us, but we appreciated the gesture and if we have any issues in the future will certainly return to that store. We returned home and later that afternoon had an appointment with Matthew Garrison to visit but it got pushed back to Thursday. We also got a call from another Military wife, Tara Alexander, and she needed help. She needed to bathe her two dogs and couldn’t do it with her 2 children in the way. So, we went to her house and took care of her children while she was outside washing the dogs. They both had skin issues and need a pretty toxic wash. The kids, Trista and Kyler were very good for us. Pam fixed them something to eat and that pretty much took up the time we were there. I cleaned up the family room and Pam did some dishes for Tara.
Wednesday was a big day for us. We arrived at the USO at 8:30 am to help out with “Farm Share” a group that passes out food to military and others free of charge. We asked the missionaries in the zone to help and they agreed to this assignment and President Lee approved. When we arrived the Farm Share people were set up in the rear parking lot under the trees and we checked in with Joyce and then with the Farm Share leader. When our Elder’s and Sisters arrived, we got them parked and reported to the food area and the missionaries began handing out large sacks of food and helped deliver the food to the cars of patrons. We ended up with 16 missionaries and they had a wonderful time being together and helping out on this worthwhile project. We estimated they had about 20 pallets filled with food items of all sorts (canned and boxes), fresh tomatoes and cabbage, frozen meat and boxes of MRE type foods plus water. At the beginning we had a traffic jam as the parking lot was filled with cars, but once we got some patrons finished and they departed we were able to manage the people and cars much better. The star attraction was the appearance of Abry Jones, a defensive lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was 6 ft 4 in tall, about 300 pounds and a mountain of a man, but very friendly and a hard worker. When he wasn’t signing autographs or posing for pictures, he was busy helping haul food to cars. He played college ball for Georgia but was undrafted and signed as an undrafted free agent and has had a solid first team career with the Jaguars. By noon all the food had been distributed and we assisted in cleaning up and then took pictures and said our goodbyes to the missionaries and thanked them for their service. I think they had a good time and enjoyed being with one another. In the afternoon Pam called Tara Alexander as we had brought some food from the USO for her, she was on the road and said she would come by our apartment. She arrived with Trista and Kyler and we enjoyed their visit and the kids were entranced by Pam’s desk chair. I put them in it and spun them around and around and they thought that great fun. We took the food out to her car and she left. At 5:00 pm were at the LaGae’s for dinner. We enjoyed visiting with Samantha, Eleanor, Fiona and Clive for an hour or so and they have become quite special to us. From their home we drove to another military family on the naval station (Tuttle’s) and met with Shay and Chris and got to know them better. Chris is a Fire Controller on “The Sullivan’s” (DDG-68) and would be deploying within a month. Shay works as office manager of an audiology firm in Jacksonville Beach and plans to stay here for the deployment. They also confided to us that they just learned she was pregnant. Shay teaches Primary, but Chris has not been too active even though they were sealed in the Gilbert Temple. A very nice family and it was good to finally get to meet them.
On Thursday morning we opened the USO at 9:00 am and counted and put out the free bread and pastries that was delivered the previous evening from a local grocery chain store. Penny (volunteer) came a little while later and Joyce arrived just before noon and they got busy cutting up meat for Monday’s “No Dough” dinner. Pam and I ran the office and took phone calls and checked in patrons until we left at 1:00 pm. We had an appointment with the Garrison’s in the afternoon and drove to their home and visited with Matthew and her new baby. Alena, his wife, was asleep so we missed her, but enjoyed getting to know Matt. He was currently attached to the Naval Station Base Services and was on a Limited Duty status due to a car accident he had a few months ago. It might be career ending for him. He was baptized as a youth but had not been to church since about 12. We met him at the USO in our previous week. His wife was not a member, but they are interested in coming to church and finding something for their family.
Friday morning began at 10:30 am with Pam and I setting up a table for the USO at the Navy Exhange main entrance foyer, celebrating Military Wives Appreciation Day. There were about 15 other tables set up from various support groups and we visiting with the patrons as they came to shop and handed out travel kits, candy, and comic books. Several wanted information on volunteering and information on tickets for events upcoming in the local area. We gave out a lot of the goodies and enjoyed visiting with the individuals and families as they came by. We returned to the USO at 2:00 pm and checked in with Joyce and returned items that were not passed out. We helped a little in the kitchen and then returned home. We hosted Sister’s Knudsen and Gillins tonight for dinner at our home and they arrived at 6:00 pm. Pam was craving for some good Mexican food and created a Café Rio style salad and it tasted wonderful. The Sisters enjoyed the meal and wonderful Banana Crème pie for dessert. Following dinner, the Sister gave us a spiritual thought and prayer and then left.
Saturday was kind of a day off for us as we didn’t have any appointments. Following a morning of cleaning and laundry, we decided to take a drive down to St. Augustine, which is a historical city on the coast about 25 miles south of Jacksonville Beach. The area was settled by the Spanish in 1565. They build a town, established missions to the Indians for the Catholic Church and explored surrounding area. Thus, St. Augustine was founded forty-two years before the English colony at Jamestown, Virginia, and fifty-five years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts - making it the oldest permanent European settlement on the North American continent. Today the Castillo de San Marcos (fort) is the primary landmark of the early settlement and it was built in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s. We spent almost 2 hours wandering the various levels of the fort and it was quite magnificent. As we were looking around up on the “gun deck” a man and woman approached us and said, “Hello Elder & Sister.” It was a father and daughter visiting. The father was from Oakland, California, and his daughter lived in Jacksonville and was married to a sailor stationed at the Naval Station. They were both members of the church although they were not active. I visited with the daughter and got her phone numbers and permission to call them during the next week. Apparently both her and her husband were members, just lost. so that will be a wonderful opportunity for us. At 2:00 pm a special reenactment took place where the Spanish gave up control of the Castillo to the British. They had men representing both nations marching around and going through a ceremony and then they came up on top and lowered the Spanish flag and raised the “Union Jack” of Great Britain. Quite an impressive ceremony. When done we exited the fortress and wound our way through the old historical part of St. Augustine back to our van and home.
Sunday morning, we attended church in the Jacksonville Beach ward and picked up Alexis Connelly and met the LaGae’s at the chapel. We had a wonderful 3 hours with them and everyone seemed to enjoy the meetings and classes. This was Alexis’ first sacrament meeting for over a month and we were happy her migraine headaches had subsided for the day. She is still getting treatments and evaluations for they haven’t completely gone away. Samantha and her children sat with us and we helped with the children and they were good. Jerald LaGae is at sea and will be gone for another few weeks. In the afternoon Stephanie and Lance Jarvis invited us to dinner and we joined another “Beach” ward family, the Poppell’s and their 3 children, and Alexis Connelly also came along with a new convert, Tori Martin. We had a wonderful time with all these new friends and enjoyed a lovely meal and played a game following dinner. It was a rousing game, called “Telestrations” and we all laughed and had a good time. We were especially happy that Alexis got to associate with Stephanie and Lance and meet other members of her new ward.
Sister Knudsen and Gillins at our home for dinner