NEWS | Feb. 1, 2011

Soto Cano volunteers honor the living

By Staff Sgt. Kimberly Rae Moore Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

The Chapel Hike Joint Task Force-Bravo executed, Jan. 22, marked the third for Capt. (Chaplain) Charles Seligman since his arrival to Soto Cano Air Base in October 2010 but the base itself has been conducting these hikes since 2007.

Chapel Hikes allow members from Soto Cano Air Base to interact with Hondurans while providing them with necessary sustainment foods, the chaplain explained. The Soto Cano Air Base Friendship Chapel sponsors monthly hiking trips that partners JTF-Bravo members with local community leaders, city hall officials and the World Food Program to provide support to surrounding villages in need of food and supplies.

"The amount of food we provide is directly reflective of the generous donations from personnel assigned to Soto Cano Air Base, a true testament of the American spirit" said Capt. Seligman.

"Once we know how much money we have purchase food, we have our NGO (non government organization representative) at the World Food Program locate a village in need, then we meet with the patronato (town father) and he chooses families to receive our donations, we schedule the hike and volunteers sign up to transport the donations."

"January's hike was to the villages of Las Delicias and Guayabal where we hiked through a coffee plantation owned by retired Lt. Col. Arturo Buxo. Mr. Buxo is a former JTF-B DCO who owns the coffee plantation. There is a lot of need in the two villages so this location just felt like a good fit," said Capt. Seligman.

The donations included rice, salt, oats, sugar, soup, pasta and flour, just to mention a few. Many of the hike participants disbursed hygiene items as well, the chaplain said.

"This was the first time we donated hygiene items," he said. "I asked participants to bring items we take for granted every day; items like soap, lotion, toothpaste and toothbrushes, can become a luxury when resources are scarce, so the hike participants provided these items."

And there was a lot to hand out. "This was probably the largest attendance in recent history, we had 107 members volunteer to go on the hike and we received more monetary donations than ever before," Capt. Seligman said. "On November's hike we probably only had half as many bags to donate and the bags themselves weren't as full as January's hike. The people we visited were blessed beyond what we've ever been able to do before."

Both JTF-B and the local people benefit from Chapel Hikes, he said. We do these because there is a need and the people of Honduras are a precious people. Chapel hikes are valuable to JTF-B in promoting security through friendships. We get to meet each other, shake hands, play soccer and have fun together in turn, promoting Democratic values, all of this is important for regional stability where there's strength in unity."

"I couldn't believe the turn out," Capt. Seligman said. "Everyone here is so eager to be part of positive activities. It reveals a lot about the volunteer spirit of America; we pull together and accomplish amazing things."

"Our Chaplain Corps calls us toward an outward ministry focus and a posture of servant leadership," Capt. Seligman said. "Chapel hikes are a great way to accomplish this mission."