By Maj. Gen. Simeon Trombitas
Trombitas is serving in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as the deputy commander of Joint Task Force-Haiti. He is also the commander of United States Army South in San Antonio, Texas.
Since arriving in Haiti, I’ve traveled to various Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in and around Port-au-Prince. I am amazed at the resilience and courage displayed by the Haitian people and their desire to return to a sense of normalcy. I am also tremendously impressed with the performance of our service members who are out daily, supporting our nation’s humanitarian assistance mission.
Our troops have been engaged in Operation Unified Response from the early phases of disaster response – distributing water, food and providing medical care – to assisting in the training of Haitian building inspectors and planning camp resettlements. Hand in hand with the lead U.S. government agency, USAID, nongovernmental organizations, and the United Nations, our service members have proved their flexibility and adaptability.
They are committed to saving lives and mitigating the effects of weather on the thousands of Haitians living in conditions that many of us could never imagine. Their strength of purpose, coupled with an amazing compassion, has made a huge impact. America’s sons and daughters have truly preformed at a level that makes me proud to serve side-by-side with them.
While their performance reflects the pride of our nation, their actions portray much more than that. People see the U.S. in different ways, many times through symbols. To those who have never visited the U.S., the Grand Canyon, the New York City skyline, or the Lincoln Memorial symbolize the United Sates of America to them.
To thousands of Haitians, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are probably the first and only American citizens they have ever seen. They will forever remember seeing a Soldier holding a child’s hand in Cite Soleil, a Marine passing out water in Carrefour, a Navy Seabee building roads in Corail Cesselesse and the compassionate touch of an Air Force doctor in a field hospital. To the Haitian people, our troops are symbols of America; they are America’s ambassadors.
As we approach the three month mark of this overwhelming catastrophe, it is evident the U.S. military has made a difference. Our servicemen and women have given more than a helping hand—they have given hope.