Military gives back

Navy Petty Officers Sean Woods (left) and Brian Popish build a wheelchair ramp for a home on Magnolia Street on Friday as other Navy personnel do yardwork and paint the home in Charleston.

CHARLESTON - The weapons: Shovels, paint rollers, circular saws and hammers.

The objective: Build a wheelchair ramp.

For most of the week, the sailors studied nuclear fission, prepping to be deployed on the seas tending reactors aboard aircraft carriers or submarines. On Friday, they piled out of trucks around a small home in the North Central neighborhood of Charleston.

The sailors were among some 2,000 students at the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command Goose Creek who did an early run for Tuesday's Day of Caring. They worked in neighborhoods across Charleston and North Charleston, joined by about 500 volunteers from the Air Force and community volunteers.

Friday is the only weekday the sailors can be spared from training, and they make up about one-third of the 6,000 volunteers who are taking part in 300 projects across the Lowcountry as part of the annual United Way effort.

"Pretty cool," said neighbor Tonya Ashley, as she watched the swarm of black T-shirts and blue camie pants take over a few homes in the neighborhood. "It's a great thing the people are doing something for somebody else. Seeing people out there working makes other people want to take care of the neighborhood better."

"It's a blessing," Lisa Scott said about the ramp being built for her mother, Juanita Scott, who can't get around. "This way, we can get her down to go to church."

In the Lowcountry, where the day is held in honor of victims of the Sept. 11 2001, terrorist attacks, the military's part in the effort reverberates.

It's good to get out and work with tools as a break from the mental grind of studying, said Petty Officer Brian Popish as he sawed two-by-fours for the ramp. But it's more. He was in high school in California when the planes slammed into the World Trade Center.

"Everybody remembers this weekend. It's a good time to do something good and give back to the community," he said.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or bpetersen@postandcourier.com.