VINH, VIETNAM (July 19, 2012) The U.S. Pacific Fleet band plays for a group at the Nghe An Vocational Training Center for Disabled Children during a community service project July 19 in Vinh, Vietnam as part of Pacific Partnership. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michael Feddersen)

VINH, Vietnam - Pacific Partnership 2012 (PP12) volunteers shared laughter and smiles with children at a disabled children’s vocational school, July 19.

Together, the children and volunteers spent time playing with toys, listening to the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, making origami, and blowing bubbles. They also spent time learning about each other and making new friends.

Event organizer U.S. Army Capt. Hector Cortez said there are no barriers with laughter.

“We all express joy in the same manner and laughter in the same way,” he said.

Volunteers from the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Amphibious Ship Oosumi played side-by-side with the children throughout the event.

Taylor Jensen, a Latter Day Saints Charities volunteer, said the event helped the school’s staff better understand their students.

“It gave them better meaning for why they are doing what they are doing, I think,” he said. “These children are valuable to society. They have special talents and things we can all learn from.”

“I looked around and saw how happy everyone was and how glad they were to have us here, participating and having a good time.”

Jensen was able to move past normal language barriers with some of the children by speaking sign language.

Cortez said Community Service Events (COMSERV) are an integral part of the mission of Pacific Partnership.

“One thing we have been able to do in every country is play with the kids,” he said. “It brings things down to a social level and engage with the host nation at more of an intimate level. It also shows the common human spirit we all share.”

COMSERVs help bring PP12 partner nations and host nations together through activities, music, laughter, donations and, most importantly, newly minted friendships.

Now in its seventh year, Pacific Partnership is an annual Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance mission U.S. military, host and partner nations, non-governmental organizations and international agencies designed to build stronger relationships and disaster response capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.

For more information about the PP12 mission, please visit the Pacific Partnership Blog or engage with Pacific Partnership on Facebook and Twitter.