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Patriotic Article
Noble Efforts

By MCS 3rd Class Timothy Wilson

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Red Cross Workers Aboard Comfort Vital To Mission Success
(February 12, 2010)

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Red CrossUSNS COMFORT, At Anchor (2/8/2010 - NNS) -- When a Red Cross volunteer noticed a young boy in the pediatric ward aboard USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) crying for his father who was still in Port-au-Prince, a passion to help moved him to action resulting in a Feb. 5 reunion between father and son.

Simpson St. Fort, from Fort Meyers, Fla., is one of two dozen Red Cross workers on board Comfort performing acts of quiet heroism every day in support of Operation Unified Response. Though originally brought on board to provide Creole and French translation between English speaking doctors and their Haitian patients, these volunteers have taken it upon themselves to do more than the terms of their agreements require.

George McNally, who moved to Miami from Port-au-Prince two years ago, said he felt honored to support relief efforts.

"Assisting the doctors and nurses makes a huge impact. The Red Cross [shows] the essence of volunteering," McNally said. "All of us are here to assist, and we don't expect anything in return. They are accomplishing their mission by responding so quickly to people in need, and I wanted to help them out."

Since 1881, the Red Cross has distinguished themselves by delivering humanitarian aid whenever tragedy strikes, whether in a war zone or a natural disaster. A nongovernmental agency, their primary focus is to prevent and relieve suffering of the unfortunate.

"The Haitian people are very excited for the volunteers to be [on Comfort]," McNally said. "Even though their homes are devastated, they have smiles on their face."

These exceptional people have taken the Red Cross mission into their hearts and projected this compassion onto the Haitians. At the core of this philosophy is providing selfless service and support. Medical care is provided around the clock on Comfort, and the volunteers never depart from their drive to lend their energies and spirits to give hope to those injured.

"These volunteers are vital to this mission's success," said Lt. Andrea Hernandez, a nurse in the pediatric ward aboard Comfort. "They are invaluable, going beyond what was asked of them, touching the hearts of everyone they help."

Red Cross workers are directly supporting Operation Unified Response, a multinational effort to bring emergency aid and reconstruction support in the wake of the worst earthquake the region has experienced in a century. On a daily basis, the volunteers face unimaginable challenges when witnessing the destruction firsthand in the mangled bodies of the Haitians they have vowed to help.

Of these volunteers Hernandez added, "The amazing wonders these people provide deserves a medal."

Elvire Simonvil, from Philadelphia, felt there was no option for her other than to pack immediately and travel to her ancestral home. In addition to her language skills, she helps feed and bathe the patients, sometimes tearfully listening to their stories of pain and anguish.

"Some of the children have no parents, so we talk to them when they are crying," Simonvil said. "Many Red Cross volunteers were personally affected by the earthquake, and we still came here to help in any way possible."

While some have been separated by destruction, others have the hope of reuniting with family and returning to some semblance of what their lives were before the disaster struck.

St. Fort saw that hope in a patient whose right arm and leg were amputated. The day of the earthquake, David Louizar's 12-story apartment building collapsed atop him. His brother perished immediately, and he was trapped under rubble for two days. His father, Louifanord, unearthed his unconscious son and carried him to a medical screening point for help.

The boy was one of the first patients admitted to Comfort. Unfortunately, his father who had left his son's side momentarily got lost in the confusion of the day and did not join his son. When David awoke, the realities of his situation set in, and sorrow wracked his small broken body for days. While those aboard tried to console David in between the long hours of treating patients, it wasn't until St. Fort arrived that his emotional relief came.

St. Fort took on the task of locating Louifanord Louizar amid thousands of other Haitians looking for their lost loved ones. He succeeded, working with Sailors aboard Comfort to bring the man from Port-au-Prince to the bed where his son laid waiting.

Simonvil said that David did not believe it when told his father was on board. She offered soft affirmations to assuage his doubts until at last father and son embraced while Comfort crew members stood cheering with reaffirmed hope in their hearts.

Praying for his father's return, David had been saving candy, hoping to share it with his father. As the mood in the room settled and hugs and kisses were exchanged, the two sat together, sharing the candy with arms wrapped around each other.

"It was a desire from my heart to help them," St. Fort said. "It could have been me. And if it was, I would hope someone would come for me."
By MCS 3rd Class Timothy Wilson
USNS Comfort Public Affairs
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Navy News Service

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