SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras —
I am part of Civil Affairs Team 4361, a detachment of Joint Task Force-Bravo at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, that visited the Jardin de Ninos Roman Villeda school in the rural town of La Labor, Ocotepeque Department June 19 to conduct an assessment and deliver humanitarian assistance.
Our teams are tasked with working with regional partners on the ground, in their communities to strengthen relationships and build partner-nation capacity. In short, we are the point where policy meets people.
We were in La Labor to introduce the school administration to our team and to distribute backpacks filled with school supplies. While the team had completed its mission, there was one aspect of the day that weighed heavily on my Civil Affairs Team medic’s heart: a little girl named Yenci. She presented with a deformity of her left arm, and her mother stated that she had a history of a broken arm without having had the arm casted or surgically set correctly. The result was a clear deformity that could have significant, negative impacts later in life, such as limited range of movement, continued deformed growth, and even nerve damage.
Our team wanted to find a way to help; more specifically, U.S. Army Sergeant Daniel Hardesty, Civil Affairs Team medic, wanted to ensure Yenci received needed medical-surgical intervention. With perhaps a stroke of luck, the team ran into a local physician while meeting with the governor of Ocotepeque on the following day. When we explained the situation to Dr. Vesna Valladares, she was more than happy to assist. She explained that healthcare for children is usually free in the area. Before she left, Valladares gave us her contact information and gave the team permission to contact her anytime about this situation.
Hardesty began reaching out to the mother of the child and filled her in on information gathered while speaking with the doctor. Shortly after, a medical visit was scheduled for Yenci, who required a pediatric orthopedic surgeon to perform the surgical intervention on her arm. Through coordination between the mother, Hardesty and Valladares, we set a date for Yenci’s surgery.
Throughout the entire process, Valladares was beyond instrumental in the coordination, execution and follow-up care of Yenci. She is the reason the surgical intervention was successfully coordinated.
Fast-forward to mid-September when a surgery was finally scheduled. After it was completed, Hardesty contacted Yenci’s mother, who let him know the surgery was a success. Valladares provided us with the contact information of the orthopedic surgeon, with Hardesty acting as the primary coordinator of care, contacting the physician to follow up and express gratitude. The physician said everything went smoothly, completely healing the deformity. Hardesty’s concern, kindness, and coordination for Yenci’s surgical procedure resulted in saving a small girl from long-term suffering and possible inability to use a limb.
While this interaction is an encapsulation of the kind of work we do every day among our Civil Affairs Teams, it is just one example of the many ways JTF-Bravo, through Civil Affairs, works to honor the enduring promise of security, stability and prosperity for Central America.