SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
A member of Joint Task Force-Bravo was recently honored by the Garifuna Veterans of America organization for his military service during an awards ceremony held in New York, Nov. 10, 2013.
U.S. Army Maj. Juan Arzu, Joint Task Force-Bravo Contracting Chief, was one of several active duty and retired service members to be awarded the "America's Core Values Award" by the organization.
Garifuna Veterans of America is an organization created two years ago by young Garífuna men and women from Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.
"The idea came around when I realized that there are no Garífunas registered as such in the army and I know that many served in World War II," said Edson Arzú, president of Garífuna Veterans of America.
The Garifuna Veterans of America's Core Values Award is presented to active duty and retired Garifuna service members who have excelled in their missions. It is the organization's desire to award every hero that has proudly served.
Arzu's path to service as a member of the U.S. Army is truly unique. He was born in Puerto Cortes, Honduras and spent his childhood in the small village of Travesia. At the age of 14, he, along with his brothers and sisters, moved to Houston, Texas, to join his parents in search of a better education and future.
"That was my renaissance," he said of his relocation to the United States. At the age of 19, he made the decision to join the U.S. Army.
"I wanted to give something back to the country that had given us so much," he said.
While many may find it a strange concept to be willing to fight for and defend a land other than one's home country, Arzu said he had no reservations about his decision to serve in the U.S. military even though he is Honduran by birth.
"It is an act of gratitude, honor, and respect," he said.
Arzu deployed for the first time to Egypt in 1998 and deployed four more times after that. He has served twice in Egypt, as well as deployments to Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.
While Arzu admits it is difficult to be separated from his family during deployments, he said his wife and children understand there are sacrifices that need to be made and they are very proud to see him serve in the U.S. Army.
"My two young boys dream of joining the military someday, and I will support them," he said. "My daughter is currently attending college, and she is very proud of me as well."
Arzu had only been home for a few short months from his last year-long deployment to Afghanistan when he volunteered to serve for six months as a member of Joint Task Force-Bravo. It was a unique opportunity to serve in his home country.
"I plan to serve Joint Task Force-Bravo proud and strong and work hard each day, and to never bring shame into the organization," said Arzu. "I have proudly served for 20 years, I like my job, I like the mission, I like the people in it, and the prestige of wearing the uniform for such a great organization. I really like being part of something bigger than us and the day I stop feeling the way I feel about serving in the military, I will retire."
Although Arzu was not able to attend the award ceremony, he is very grateful for the award and said it is the most important acknowledgment he has ever received.
"It is one thing to be honored by your own country for service," he said. "But when your own people recognized you for your service to another country, that means a lot."