SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Joint Task Force-Bravo partnered with the Special Olympics-Honduras and the Honduran Air Force to host the Special Olympics soccer tournament here, Oct. 25-26.
Volunteers from Joint Task Force-Bravo provided full support for the two-day event. U.S. service members prepared the soccer field each day and equipped it with tents, bleachers and tables. The American military members provided medical personnel as well as security for the players and spectators throughout the tournament. Joint Task Force-Bravo also coordinated transportation for the athletes from Comayagua to Soto Cano Air Base and back each day.
Additionally, civilian employees and military personnel from Joint Task Force-Bravo gave donations to provide lunch and snacks for the athletes participating in the tournament.
"We had people from across the entire task force volunteer to help support this event," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Frazier, Joint Task Force-Bravo director of civil affairs. "Everyone stepped up and worked hard to ensure the Special Olympics soccer tournament here was a success and that we provided something special for these inspirational athletes."
The involvement of Joint Task Force-Bravo in the event began when Frazier was contacted by Gracia Mendez, Executive Director of Special Olympics-Honduras.
"We came knocking at their door requesting help and we really didn't know what to expect," said Mendez. "I honestly did not expect this much support. I thought we might just get permission to use the field, but we got so much more than that! All the volunteers worked so hard and made this such an incredible event for the Special Olympics athletes. It's just been wonderful!"
During down-time between games, members of Joint Task Force-Bravo visited with the athletes and played games with them to keep them entertained.
"It's an incredibly rewarding experience to interact with the kids," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Steven Brettler, Joint Task Force-Bravo operations superintendent. "It doesn't matter that we don't speak the same language, we can still communicate and I can put a smile on their faces just by spending time with them. That is really special."
The event marked the first time Special Olympics-Honduras has partnered with two countries at one time. Mendez said the strong relationship between the United States and Honduras made the event a success.
"It was just great," said Mendez. "The Americans and the Hondurans came together as one family to work together and make this tournament something very special for these athletes."
While the event may have been for the Special Olympians, members of Joint Task Force-Bravo took something valuable away from the experience as well.
"You see these kids come out to compete and they are so driven," said U.S. Army Col. Thomas Boccardi, Joint Task Force-Bravo commander. "They have very strong drive for excellence, and they want to win. And we share that drive with them; it's something we have in common. You watch them, and you have this great interaction with them and you begin to realize you really can do something while you are here in Honduras to make a difference. You realize you can be a part of something bigger than yourself...and there is great value in that."