SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
More than 300 Honduran orphans were treated to a day of activities, treats, gifts, and holiday joy during Joint Task Force-Bravo's "Operation Holiday Blessing," Dec. 6.
A group of more than 200 volunteers from across the Task Force worked together to pull off the event, which was designed to provide underprivileged children with a truly special holiday experience.
"We wanted to create an event where we could bond with those in the local area who are less fortunate," said U.S. Army Col. Thomas Boccardi, Joint Task Force-Bravo Commander. "There are many people out there who don't have anything. We understand that as Americans, we have been given a gift, a blessing. And so this event, 'Operation Holiday Blessing,' is about giving. It's about sharing that blessing."
During the afternoon, orphans from five local orphanages sponsored by Joint Task Force-Bravo, participated in a variety of activities and games, enjoyed lunch and holiday treats, took part in a tree lighting ceremony, and even received a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
"We really wanted to provide for these kids who don't have families and show them our love for them and how important we believe they are," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jeff McMillen, Joint Task Force-Bravo Chaplain. "And as you looked around, you could see the kids having a phenomenal time, and our members were having a great time interacting with them as well."
Julie Schechter Torres, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy, visited the base and observed the activities during Operation Holiday Blessing.
"It's so inspiring to see what Joint Task Force-Bravo does, not just today, but the ongoing relationship the Task Force has with these orphanages and the children who have so little in their lives," said Torres. "It truly speaks of Joint Task Force-Bravo's motto of 'noble people doing noble deeds.' It provides such a positive image of the U.S. military in Honduras as the Task Force reaches out to some of the most disadvantaged people. It is a real strength to continue to build the relationship between our two countries."
McMillen said that for members of Joint Task Force-Bravo, participating in the event and helping bring joy to others was a tremendous way to enjoy the holiday season while away from family and friends.
"It's so important to give during the holiday season when you are away from your family, because it truly fills you up inside," said McMillen. "Many times we think of giving as emptying, but in reality, you are filling yourself up when you give to others. We are most blessed by blessing other people."
Before departing the base, each child received several gifts, all of which were donated by Joint Task Force-Bravo personnel.
"It doesn't matter what country or religion you are from, this is truly all about giving," said Boccardi. "In this case, everyone bought into that. I saw our service members getting money from the cash machines and then going into town to buy gifts in an effort to bring joy to these children. It just shows the nature of human giving, the nature of people who understand they are part of something bigger than themselves. They understand they have been blessed and in return, they can share that blessing with someone else."