SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, –
Nearly 130 members of Joint Task Force-Bravo, with the support of Joint Task Force-Bravo's Joint Security Forces, completed a volunteer five mile round trip hike to deliver more than 4,000 pounds of food, supplies and clothing to families in need in the mountain village of Proterillos outside La Paz, Honduras, June 21, 2014.
The effort was part of the 55th Joint Task Force-Bravo Chapel Hike, a venerable tradition during which the servicemembers donate money to purchase food and supplies and then carry them on a hike through the mountains to deliver to local, underserviced communities.
"The mission of our chapel hike is to provide humanitarian assistance to the community in La Paz in order to bolster and strengthen the relationship between Joint Task Force-Bravo and our surrounding communities," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jeffery Scott, Joint Task Force-Bravo chaplain. "One of the great things about Joint Task Force-Bravo is that we are blessed with so many good people who give without asking for anything in return. Without their participation, a lot of our humanitarian efforts would never happen."
The Soto Cano Fire Department organized a clothing drive from May 19 thru June 20, 2014 where JTF-Bravo personnel donated 1,000 pounds of clothes and shoes for adults and children in the secluded village. These military volunteers consider it a privilege to be able to donate their time and resources to the citizens of Proterillos.
"This was an awesome opportunity," said U. S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Donald Procter, JTF-Bravo Air Operations officer. "It is a blessing being able to give back to this community. The chapel hike upholds the values that I have as a servicemember and a Christian and it is an honor to support this endeavor."
After delivering the food and supplies, Task Force members spent time interacting with the villagers and playing with the children, including providing them with two piñatas full of candy to break open and soccer balls, which were donated by the non-profit organization Kick for Nick Foundation, to kick around. Many of the kids also filled their hands, pockets and shirts with the candy and snacks they were given by the volunteers.
Chaplain Scott added that every hike has a number of fond memories but he vividly recalled his most touching moment that he experienced with the children and the piñata they were trying to break open.
"After many kids had beat our "Minion" piñata almost to the point of being unrecognizable, candy was intermittently falling out one or two pieces at a time," described Scott. "Every time one would hit the ground, all the kids would dive for it at the same time. We're talking 30-40 kids dog-piling for a piece of candy. So I grabbed the piñata, tore it in half, and then candy rained down around my feet. In about half a second, there were 40 children diving at my legs, digging for candy like a miner for gold. The kids were in a circle around me, six or seven deep on their hands and knees laughing, giggling and screaming. The unbridled joy all those children had in that moment was what I'll remember most. "
Jose de la Cruz, the Proterillos community religious leader, stated that it is very important for his community to receive the food donations from Joint Task Force-Bravo.
"It's the first time you visit our community and the kids feel strengthened with your presence here today," stated Cruz. "This is a great joy for us because we're very poor and it will benefit our community and not only will this fill our stomach but your presence, your effort to come here fills us as well. We're very blessed."
Since the chapel hikes originated in 2004, nearly 8,200 service members have donated over $164,500 and volunteered their time to deliver more than 203,000 pounds of food and supplies to several remote villages.