By guest blogger: Marlayna Camara
Being part of a military family is an adventurous, interesting and also scary experience. My older and only brother Thomas joined the United States Navy in February of 2008, or should I say my family joined the United States Navy along with my brother in 2008. He went to boot camp in Chicago, IL in the dead of winter and on his graduation day we were there to congratulate him on his achievement. We have been there every step of the way supporting him and his decision to defend the Red, White, and Blue. Shortly after boot camp he was then shipped to Gulfport, MS where he will be stationed for the next 6 years, or more.
After only a few months of schooling and training, my family received news we feared would come. My brother and is battalion was being shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan for their first tour. My brother is a United States Navy Sea Bee. The Seabees, or SeaBees, are the Construction Battalions (CBs) of the United States Navy. The Seabees have a history of building bases, bulldozing and paving thousands of miles of roadway and airstrips, and accomplishing myriad other construction projects in a wide variety of military theatres dating back to World War II. He was sent to the Middle East to build military bases for the thousands of Marines being shipped out there for the Operation Iraqi Freedom, the War for Iraqi Freedom.
As scared as our friends and family were for his safety we could not let him hear the fear and sadness in our voices and he felt the same way towards us. As hard as it was we stood by our word and supported Thomas every day in our prayers. We sent him packages almost every day to keep up his spirits and those of his battalion. This was the first Christmas he was not there to share in the joy of the holiday season in 24 years. This took a huge toll on my family emotionally, but like anything else we stuck together and pulled through.
While Thomas was in Iraq my mother had joined a group for Navy Mom’s and had met a woman who helped us out and we grew close to her and her family as well. Jane had also given us the dates and information for the home coming of our Soldiers from Iraq. Soon after learning this information we quickly booked plane tickets to Mississippi to be there to greet Thomas as he arrived on US soil. Only my Mom and I were able to go down but it was so worth it.
We were able to stand in the hanger on the base and wait for the plane to pull in. After hours of waiting, in military life that’s what you do – hurry up to wait; the plane arrived and hundreds of soldiers unloaded from the plane. My mom and I stood there among other wives, husbands, children and parents with signs, flags and dressed head to toe in red, white and blue with no sight of my brother. Then my mom turns to me and says “If your brother is the last one off that plane I’m going to kill him!” Sure enough, my brother was the last one off the plane! We ran to him with tears in our eyes and our arms stretched as far as we could to take all of him in. The only thing my mom wanted to do was the same thing she did the day he was born, hold him, kiss him and to check that he has 10 fingers and 10 toes.
Following his first tour, we have still followed my brother through his journeys across the world, his NAM’s Navy Achievement Metals, and his quick move up in rank. From a no-name sailor to a Petty Officer 1st Class in only a few years was another major achievement. Unfortunately in 2010 Haiti was hit buy a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake, so Petty Officer Thomas Camara and NMCB 7, his battalion were shipped to help save Haiti. The men and women of NMCB 7 worked to remove bodies from the fallen buildings and rebuild parts of the island. They also worked close with actor Sean Penn in his efforts to help the Haitians. Mr. Penn co-founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization and is managing a tent camp on the Pétionville golf course that now shelters some 55,000 people. My brother was in charge of a good amount of the project becoming very friendly with Mr. Penn. My brother was able to give back to the community in more ways then one. He was able to hire a good many of the Haitians and provide them with work to help rebuild their lives.
My brother has seen a lot and has learned a great deal in the past few years of being part of the military and was able to help guide others who have recently traveled to Haiti. My boss has just returned from a visit in Haiti working with a charity called the Friends of the Orphans. They are dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children through the support of the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH, Spanish for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters”) a network of orphanages in Latin America and the Caribbean. By donating and supporting the Friends of the Orphans you can help break the cycle of poverty for these children, and providing safe and loving homes for thousands of children in nine countries.
Giving back in the world is the greatest gift you can give. Whether it is lending a hand to some one who is in need of physical assistance or some one who needs financial help. There are many different ways to help but one way that is great and most people are unaware of is donating your vehicle. By donating your vehicle to a charity you’re giving the chance to donate more then you might be able to in a cash value. When a vehicle is donated to Friends of the Orphans or American Veterans, 100% of the net proceeds from the sale of your vehicle will be given to the charity. Helping out in any way is not only good for your soul but helps to make the world a better place.