Deployed airmen help Kyrgyz children
By Capt. Brus Vidal, 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 14, 2003
MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan (AFPN) -- A small group of security forces airmen here made a large impact on the lives of a group of ailing, special needs and underprivileged children from a local orphanage Nov. 8 as part of an ongoing humanitarian effort.
The group of 10 airmen, predominantly from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., used one of their few days off to deliver hundreds of donated gifts to the Children’s Invalid Home of Belovodoski.
The gifts included toys, hygiene items, crayons, heavy winter jackets, shoes, socks, underwear and other clothing items of all sizes. The greatest gift of all, however, was just showing up, officials said.
“The kids were excited we were there,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Holland, who was preparing to return to his own 1-year-old child and family. “It was a great experience handing a balloon off to (children), seeing smiles and hearing giggles, (and) watching as their face lights up.”
One airman who got to see more faces light up than most was Chaplain (Capt.) Richard Anderson of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing. He personally visited the home more than 10 times among his many other humanitarian outreach efforts during his Air and Space Expeditionary Force Blue rotation. As the humanitarian council president, Anderson and hundreds of AEF Blue airmen here championed a number of altruistic programs to help the disadvantaged and unwell.
The airmen from Davis-Monthan are but the latest in a long line of citizen airmen who go above and beyond their duty to prosecute the global war on terror here, officials said. This team of 10 airmen was but a partial representation of a larger group of American citizens who came together to provide their significant donations to the Children’s Invalid Home of Belovodoski.
When he heard about the ongoing efforts of the humanitarian committee, Tech. Sgt. George Roach, who is part of the security forces team, decided he and his unit needed to assist the cause. He called back to Arizona and spoke with his wife, Tina, and first sergeant, Master Sgt. Crystal Flowers.
Together, they collected gifts and accepted donations on behalf of the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, and the result was the overwhelming outpouring of goods that ultimately ended up here. Over the course of two or so months, packages from the CPSA and 12 other U.S. Air Force bases worldwide arrived here. The airmen ended up having enough donations to fill the back end of a local shuttle bus.
Once Roach and his team received the last of the packages, they contacted Anderson and asked if he could arrange a special trip to the children’s home so they could personally deliver presents to the children.
The airmen said they got a lot more than they expected when they saw and subsequently interacted with the children.
“It gives you a definite shot of humility -- if you have kids, it makes you think about how we’re able to take care of our kids when you see the condition of some of these children,” said Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Moody, a member of the security forces team. “You don’t necessarily feel pity, but it makes you want to do something to help.
“It makes you stop and think, and your heart gets caught up with them,” he said. “The children are starving for affection, and you see that hunger in their eyes.”
But this visit, in particular, was especially emotional for Anderson.
“Those are my kids; I’ve been visiting them for four months now and this time I realized that I would probably not ever see them again, and that broke my heart,” he said. “I’m sad. I’ll think about this place for a long time … I’m happy we’ve made an impact with the children, but also with the workers who care for them.
“I think my heart got bigger as a result of being here,” he said. “I may have left a little piece of it here, but what I’ll take back with me is much bigger.”
“This visit is much more than what I thought it would be,” Roach said. “I’m just happy we were able to do it, and I’m really happy that the folks back in Tucson were able to help as well.”