VP-8 visits friends at Pattaya Orphanage

By Lt. Carlos GomezMarch 5, 2024

A group of U.S. Navy sailors took a welcomed break from their participation in exercise Cobra Gold recently to learn how to play like kids again. The children of the Pattaya Orphanage were happy to help them in that endeavor.

Sailors from the “Fighting Tigers” of Patrol Squadron VP-8 continued the squadron’s tradition of volunteering at the orphanage, which began during previous assignments to Thailand.

“We knew as a detachment team, we wanted to use a portion of our free time to give back to the community in Pattaya,” said Lt. Caroline Baylosis, a P-8 Poseidon pilot with VP-8, who organized the visit. “We chose to go back as we already have an established relationship with the [orphanage].”

The VP-8 crew arrived with a variety of snacks and juices for the kids. They also brought toys and games to play with the kids.

The orphanage playground filled with smiles as the sailors brought out a giant colorful parachute. Some kids stared at the cloth with curiosity, while others knew exactly what was in store. Quickly, the kids and sailors began raising and lowering the parachute in unison. A number of children preferred to stay under the parachute, evoking an eruption of laughter.

“The kids were amazing!” Baylosis said. “They were so well mannered … It was so easy to coordinate games and just play.”

Playing can also be a form of cultural exchange, as both groups learned.

An orphanage staff member brought out a radio and began playing some Thai popular music, to which the children were quick to show off their dance moves to their new friends. The sailors returned the favor by teaching them a staple dance at many American functions; the “Cupid Shuffle.”

“It was so heartwarming to witness the members of VP-8 and the kids enjoying themselves together,” Baylosis said.

Some of the more competitive children challenged Lt. j.g. Devin Borders, a VP-8 naval flight officer, to a game of basketball.

“I wore my Gary ‘The Glove’ Payton basketball jersey and had to show them some moves they can hopefully use on each other on the court,” Borders said, joking about the friendly pick-up game with the kids. “I didn’t expect such a swarming defense from them!”

After play time, the sailors toured the grounds and learned about the orphanage’s history and mission.

The Pattaya Orphanage was established in 1978 as a joint effort between U.S. military veterans of the Vietnam War and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Chantaburi, Thailand. The organization serves to provide lodging, food, and educational services to local orphans who are brought in by their parents and families for a variety of reasons. The children come from either poverty-stricken homes who can not provide for them, or broken or separated families.

According to the center’s website, the orphanage also works with government and private organizations to help families who want to adopt under applicable adoption laws. The staff also works to provide secondary, collegiate, and graduate level education to their orphans.

“Learning more about the Pattaya Orphanage was a truly humbling experience,” Baylosis said. “The love and dedication exhibited by the staff at the Pattaya Orphanage is unparalleled, evident in the children and the numerous success stories of those who go on to further their education and find loving homes all over the world.”

For many of the sailors, the interaction with the children was the reward to a busy, high-profile exercise.

“Going into the event, I didn’t know what to expect,” Borders said. “But as soon as the kids arrived, they were all so happy to see us, and us them.”

VP-8 has been busy with flight operations in support of Cobra Gold since the beginning of the exercise on Feb. 28, 2024.

“For a few hours, we’re not thinking about the next thing to do on our list,” Borders said. “We get to just have a bit of fun and all be kids again.”