U.S. Army Capt. John Dills, Joint Task Force-Bravo tactical officer in charge, shakes hands with a boy during a medical readiness training exercise in San Jose De Rio Pinto, Honduras, Nov. 12, 2015. The MEDRETEs JTF-Bravo supports provide military members with essential training in austere locations and helps build local community relations in the host country. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Westin Warburton/Released)
U.S. Army Capt. Mellissa Davis, dentist, prepares to pull a decayed tooth from a woman during a medical readiness training exercise, San Jose De Rio Pinto, Honduras, Nov. 12, 2015. The MEDRETES Joint Task Force-Bravo participates in are cooperative efforts with the ministries of health and various other organizations in the Central American nations, providing the task force members with valuable training while supplementing local healthcare capabilities. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Westin Warburton/Released)
Locals from Las Moras, Comayagua, Honduras, applaud U.S. military members and civilians as they finish hiking in food and supplies during Chapel Hike 64, Oct. 31, 2015. Chapel Hikes take place every six weeks and provide community outreach by bringing much needed food and supplies to the less fortunate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Westin Warburton/Released)
A Honduran girl strikes a piñata during Chapel Hike 65, Honduras, Dec. 12, 2015. Chapel hikes like this one help build bonds with local communities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Westin Warburton/Released)
A Honduran boy grabs candy that fell from a piñata during Chapel Hike 65, Honduras, Dec. 12, 2015. Chapel hikes like this one help build bonds with local communities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Westin Warburton/Released)
SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras —
On my flight to Honduras, I didn't have the slightest idea of what to expect. Sure, I knew my job, I knew the types of missions I'd be part of, but I was not prepared for the culture shock I received after landing in Honduras.
For the most part, Tegucigalpa, the nation's capital, isn't that different from an average city in the U.S. Malls, movie theaters, fast food joints, you name it and they have it. As soon as you start driving down the road, however, life is quite different. Cars zoom by and dash over into your lane without notice. Motorcycle drivers squeeze through cars on small lanes. These are but a few sights that immediately welcome new members to Honduras.
It wasn't until my first Chapel Hike that I realized how well off we have it back in the States. I saw huts put together from found material and with no running water or electricity.
To me, I had jumped back in time.
Though these villagers live tough lives, they all held big smiles and were gracious for the food and supplies we hiked up to their village. At that moment, I was very humbled, but it was at my first Medical Readiness Training Exercise, that my entire perspective on life changed.
The MEDRETE I went on was deep into the Olancho Department of Honduras. The medical staff set up shop in a school in the middle of a village. When I walked onto the school grounds, it appeared as if it was abandoned but in fact it was still in use.
With trash everywhere and walls and ceilings falling apart, I couldn't believe how different life was for these Hondurans. Some walked miles upon miles just to receive basic medical attention, because of no other available way.
Standing there, watching the people receiving medications, tooth extractions and basic treatment, a wall broke down in my mind. It was then that I felt the most humbled I had ever felt in my life. Most of us take everything for granted in the States; I know I did prior to this experience.
Not once back home did I wash my hands and think about how thankful I am for running water. I never got in my car and drove to a supermarket thinking about how easy it is to get food. To be completely honest, I don't think I was thankful for any of the luxuries we have in the States, because I never experienced anything else.
Now though, I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to come to Honduras and meet so many great people. People who have shown me that happiness doesn't come from materialistic things or luxuries like running water and electricity. To them, their families, friends, and life are what bring them true happiness.
That is what I want to take back with me.
That is how I want to live the rest of my life.