News: Hondurans reflect on US Army South’s Beyond the Horizon mission
NACO, Honduras – As soldiers and sailors finish construction projects, wrap up dental readiness exercises, and pack up their equipment to return to the United States, the people in the communities they helped are already hoping they will one day return.
The presence of American soldiers, sailors and airmen working alongside community members through U.S. Army South’s Beyond the Horizon exercise was a much more effective way to aid Central America than simply sending a check, said Col. German A. Alfaro, chief of staff of the Honduran army’s 105th Infantry Brigade.
“The U.S. has sent a lot of money to the government in the past,” Alfaro said. “Now, because you are here, the people can see you are helping them. Communities see you working hand-in-hand with them.”
Programs like U.S. Army South’s Beyond the Horizon exercise, which combines military skills training with humanitarian aid projects are a good way to show the people of Honduras and all of Central America that the U.S. cares, Alfaro said.
“We’d like you to keep coming to Honduras to do these jobs,” Alfaro said. “By coming and working on projects, you have more impact in the community. They appreciate how friendly and gentle you are with the people.”
From town to town, word has spread about the job the American troops did during the exercise. Neighboring villages near worksites are now hoping the U.S. will come back to help them, Alfaro said.
“In all these communities, our people are very grateful to your people,” Alfaro said. “We really appreciate what you’re doing. Now, communities next door are looking for similar projects so they can have the same opportunities like going to school.”
People in the communities where the American troops worked were very pleased with their American guests, said Jessinia Moreno.
Moreno owns a small restaurant across from the Quimistan work site where soldiers built the exercise’s most ambitious project, a medical clinic. Moreno enjoyed having the Americans around, not only because it was good for her business, but because it was good for the town, she said.
“We really needed a clinic very badly,” Moreno said. “This is going to be excellent. I wish you could come more often. Everybody’s been very nice. ”
The U.S. Army South program is a huge help to small towns like Quimistan, Moreno said.
“We wish the Americans could come down and do more construction and medical missions, in Honduras and in other countries that are poor and need help,” Moreno said.
Down the street from Moreno, another store owner, Juan Carlos, said he agreed with his neighbor’s assessment.
“This is the best thing we’ve seen someone do in Quimistan,” Carlos said. “The main thing we were missing in this town was a clinic, and now we have one.”
With his son Juan playing in the store behind him, Carlos spoke about the importance of the new medical center.
“That building is a great thing for the community,” Carlos said. “It’s going to take care of the kids who can’t pay for a private doctor. I think this is excellent.”
Carlos also praised the building skills of the Americans and the follow-through on the project.
“Any project done by the U.S. is good quality,” Carlos said. “You know when they start one, they will finish it.”
Sixty kilometers away, at the Centenario Jose Trinidad Cabanas school in San Pedro Sula, a Missouri National Guard crew was working on building a cafeteria and re-wiring electrical fixtures. Just as in Quimistan, the staff at the school said having Americans working directly on the ground made a huge impact on the community.
“This is a blessing for everyone here,” said Luis Arturo Henandez Murcia, the school’s director. “Before the children had no place to eat. Now, they don’t have to go home to eat. Knowing they can enjoy a meal here is amazing.”
The students at the public school are poor, Murcia said. Through U.S. Army South’s Beyond the Horizon program, the Americans are helping improve their lives.
“I hope this keeps going on,” Murcia said. “The children really benefit from it. I hope it isn’t a one-time thing. We could improve even more.”
Like Alfaro, Murcia agreed that having Americans working the projects directly was more efficient and effective for everyone’s needs than simply paying for somebody else to do the work.
“Working directly together is a good way to do this,” Murcia said.
Of course, being a teacher, Murcia had another motivation for enjoying having the Americans around.
“Our students take daily English classes,” Murcia said. “While they are interacting with the soldiers, like playing basketball, they are also learning a little English.”
Karol Hernandez, a teacher at the school, echoed the same sentiment as Murcia and Alfaro.
“When any country makes donations, it seems like the help never comes,” Hernandez said. “I prefer that help comes directly from the people giving it, like this.”
The school is often on its own, and teachers and parents have to come up with creative solutions to solve problems that would be taken care of more easily in the States. Thanks to the U.S. military, one of the most pressing problems – feeding their students – is now a thing of the past.
“This is a great project,” Hernandez said. “All kids need good food to grow, and now our kids have a place to eat. I hope the Americans come back.”
The Beyond the Horizon is set to conclude in early July.
Date Posted:07.05.2012 12:03
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