Soldiers helped clean up a river in South Korea by throwing things into it. Here’s how that worked.
By MATT KEELER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 21, 2019
DONGDUCHEON, South Korea — Soldiers stationed near the North Korean border helped fill more than 80 trash bags with debris Thursday as they worked with local organizations to clean up the Shincheon River in their host city of Dongducheon.
Dongducheon Mayor Choi Yong-deok and Lt. Col. Shane Doolan, the 210th Field Artillery Brigade deputy commanding officer, offered opening words of appreciation to the local residents and approximately 100 Camp Casey soldiers who were participating.
“We cannot meet spring with garbage from last winter,” Choi said before the annual event.
The volunteers began by throwing into the river biodegradable balls containing microorganisms aimed at preventing the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
The microorganisms help stabilize the acidity and reduce odor in the water, leading to a much cleaner environment beyond what the eye can see.
“I always had the heart wanting to help because I know how it is to be in a situation of needing to help yourself and not always being able to, so when I saw the opportunity to volunteer and come out to help, it was just a great opportunity to give back to the community,” said Pfc. Joshua Smith, a unit supply specialist from St. Louis, Mo.
“They have been so gracious and welcoming to us to serve in their country, it was the least I could do to be of help,” said Smith, who is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 210th FAB.
Servicemembers and other volunteers ended up filling more than 80 trash bags with debris from the riverbank.
The annual event started in 2004 and is a joint effort between the Dongducheon Do Dream Volunteer Center and Camp Casey soldiers to clean up a portion of the river that runs almost eight miles through the city.
“This river is used by not only the citizens, but also the U.S. soldiers. It’s meaningful for us to clean together, and while we are cleaning we can cultivate our friendship, closeness and bond,” Choi said.
Choi closed his speech by encouraging the soldiers to learn more about the local history and culture to enhance the friendships they make while assigned to the Dongducheon area.
Doolan thanked the troops for “volunteering and demonstrating the Army value of selfless service.”
“To the citizens of Dongducheon, I say thank you, you never miss an opportunity to support our community at Camp Casey,” he added.
“I hope that this and other collaborative efforts between us and the city of Dongducheon will continue for many years to come,” Doolan said.
Most of the some 28,500 U.S. servicemembers based in South Korea have moved to hubs south of Seoul as part of a long-delayed relocation plan. But the 210th FAB and other residual forces will remain at Camp Casey, near the border with North Korea, for the foreseeable future.