About once a month, U.S. service members deployed to Forward Operating Location Kasenyi in Kampala, Uganda, in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, pack their vehicles with bottled water, and toys or goodies of some other kind, and make their way to a safe haven or orphanage where they can help ease - even for just an evening - the hardships so many of Uganda's children endure.
During their most recent visit, these troops discovered they have something of a "mission exchange program" with a group of kids who live, literally, down the road from their camp.
When visiting the Royal School and Orphanage in March, the kids expressed their appreciation for the U.S. service members' mission supporting military and civic development in Uganda and followed it up with a demonstration of their own mission: singing.
These kids are members of the world-renowned African Children's Choir which, since its inception, has included 7- to-12-year-old orphans from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana - and performed for leading figures like Queen Elizabeth II and Hillary Clinton.
"We brought stuffed animals and water to the kids here today," Petty Officer 3rd Class Marcus Hicks, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 of Port Hueneme, Calif., said during a recent visit. "We played soccer with them and listened to them sing."
The choir's mission, much like the military, takes them across the globe - in their cases to raise awareness of the need of destitute and orphaned children in Africa and raise funds for the program.
Also similar to the military, education and training are a primary focus of the choir's mission - for the purpose of growing strong future leaders for their homeland.
"Our visits build morale between us and the local kids," Hicks, an Oakridge, Tenn., native said. "It also helps them understand that we're here to help them. This is some of the best stuff we've done out here," he added.
The students agree.
"I had fun," a 6th-grade student named Lydia said. "It's nice to have you guys around because of the way you play with us.
"I just want to thank them for coming," she added. "We love them and may God bless them."