Seabees replace roof for WWII vet | Community Spirit
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jonathan Carmichael
Navy Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11 began reroofing the home of Leon and Shirley Giafaglione in Ocean Springs early this morning as a community relations activity (COMREL).
The Giafagliones are receiving help from the Seabees in part because of physical conditions that make it difficult to complete this type of manual labor. Leon, 85-years-old, is a Navy veteran who served with the 127th Seabees during WWII. Shirley , who is 75-years-old, is currently on the Board of Directors for The Lord is My Help soup kitchen in Ocean Springs.
The couple, who have been married for 54-years, began building their home in 1958, adding to it as time and finances allowed. Shirley chuckles that they used to tell their friends and neighbors “if you see us working in the yard, you know we’re out of money. You can work in the yard for free.”
The roof has undergone a few changes over the years. Their son recently noticed that water had gotten through to the wood underneath causing it to deteriorate. Some time passed then the heavy rains came. After examining their limited options, Shirley decided to contact the Navy Seabees in Gulfport.
“I knew they did work like this, but I wasn’t sure if this was something they would do for an individual,” states Shirley, who is very appreciative for the help she and Leon are receiving. Tears begin to well in her eyes.
“It’s hard to speak about this without getting emotional,” she says, humbly. “We’ve never really had to ask for anything, and we are so grateful for what they’re doing.”
Builder Constructionman Susan N. Morris, one of the crewmembers on the COMREL, exclaims, “I really enjoy the fact that we can give back not only to a WWII vet, but a Seabee who was once in my shoes.”
Other crewmembers express similar feelings.
“It’s great to be able to get off base and help out veterans and their families in a time of need,” states Builder Constructionman Crystal M. Chitel.
It’s clear that helping a military veteran, especially a former Seabee, is a motivating factor for this crew from NMCB 11. Crew Leader, Construction Electrician 2nd Class Johnny Hawkins humbly expresses his feeling about the COMREL; “Getting involved in the community is special, but helping a missionary family as well as a BU1 WWII veteran makes the project well worth every drip of sweat I can squeeze out of my body while working to complete the task. I am honored to be of any assistance whenever they need.”
Builder Constructionman Timothy J. Gonzales added “I think it’s a good thing to help out our veterans. It’s even better to help WWII Seabees that went before us, to hear what they went through and compare then and now.”
Leon and Shirley have been giving and helping others for decades. They used to build houses for elderly people in Kentucky and other parts of the country. In their living room, a photo album chronicles construction of a geodesic dome house that Leon built for someone in Ocean Springs, MS some years ago.
In addition to raising their own son and daughter, the Giafagliones have taken care of foster children. Shirley jokes that she likes to consider herself a “professional volunteer” on account of all the volunteer work that she and Leon have been, and still are, involved with.
Listening to the stories they share, one could easily get the sense that this couple knows how to live life to the fullest. In addition to years of helping and giving to others, they have done things for themselves. One example that they light up while reminiscing about is a tour of Europe. In 1961 they traveled by steam-ship to Europe with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a box which they built to carry camping gear and supplies. Together they toured Europe on the bike.
“It was a lot of fun,” exclaimed Leon. “Wherever we went people would gather around to look at the Harley.”
The Seabees expect to complete the roof Friday.