COMAYAGUA, Honduras –
More than 130 members of Joint Task Force-Bravo completed a 6.2 mile round trip hike to deliver more than 3,000 pounds of food and supplies to families in need in the mountain village of Picacho, Honduras, April 12, 2014.
The effort was part of the 53rd Joint Task Force-Bravo "Chapel Hike," a long-standing tradition during which Task Force members donate funds to purchase food and supplies and then carry those supplies on a hike through the mountains to deliver them to local underserviced communities.
"The hikes are giving events, and the men and women who participate in them are giving people," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jeffery Scott, Joint Task Force-Bravo chaplain. "That dynamic not only affects those who receive the gifts, it shapes the hearts and souls of those giving. Giving to others is a very good thing, but in the process, we are making ourselves better people."
The hike was no easy stroll. During the more than three mile trek up the mountain, Task Force members made an elevation gain of 1,600 feet while carrying more than 25 pounds of supplies each.
"I wasn't sure what to expect," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Christopher Klaiber, Joint Task Force-Bravo director of manpower and personnel. "Having now completed the chapel hike I can say it was a challenge. I truly enjoyed the view as I made the climb and as long as you take short breaks as you make your way up the mountain it can be completed."
Some of the volunteers were assisting people as they hiked up the mountain.
"A small group of maybe 4 or 5 children between the ages of 5 and 13 were venturing up the hill along with their father," said U. S. Air Force Senior Airman Daniel Johnson, 1-228th Aviation Regiment weather forecaster. "Being such a hot day, some of the children were asking for water so I shared some of my water with them as we continued up the hill. One of the little ones was so tired that my parental instincts kicked in and I gave her a ride on my shoulders."
As the families lined up and waited for the food to be handed out, one could sense their eagerness like a child on Christmas morning.
"The last time a chapel hike came to the village of Picacho was in 2005," said Scott. "The families were notified about three weeks prior to us coming so their expectations were very high. They brought flowers to welcome us."
After delivering the food and supplies, Task Force members spent time interacting with the villagers and playing with the children, including providing them with three piñatas full of candy to break open and soccer balls 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.
"I gain a great deal of satisfaction from knowing that I was helping families less fortunate than my own," stated Klaiber. "While you can't help every family in need even the smallest thing, like providing children with candy, can make a difference."
SFC David Peterson, Joint Task Force-Bravo chief of security, said taking the time to help out these families shows the true character of a person.
"These hikes show the intent and sense of purpose Joint Task Force-Bravo service members have in regard to helping out the local communities that are less fortunate than us. When people care about others enough to purchase food, take time out of their personal time, and to hike out to a remote location as an outward showing of charity it sends a crystal clear message that they do indeed sincerely care about the people in these communities"
Since the chapel hikes commenced in 2004, over 7,900 service members have donated almost $160,000 and volunteered their time to deliver more than 198,000 pounds of food and supplies to several remote villages.