Jamaicans serving on US Navy Hospital Ship

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Observer staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

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THREE Jamaicans are on-board the US Navy Hospital Ship, USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), which is currently docked in Kingston.

They are Lieutenant Demerce Young, Lieutenant Commander Devon Foster and Ensign Danielle-Rae Walters, who was born in the United States to Jamaican parents.

The USNS Comfort team is expected to provide surgeries to 150 patients, and offer other free medical services to thousands of Jamaicans between October 28 and November 1.

When the Jamaica Observer caught up with the three team members yesterday, they all expressed gratitude for the opportunity to give back to their homeland, and in the case of Walters, her roots.

“Although I wasn't born in Jamaica, I still have my family that is here and I think it is a blessing to be in a position to give back to my culture and be helpful in any way possible,” Walters said.

The 27-year-old nurse, who is a graduate of Molloy College in Long Island, New York, United States, further said that the most memorable aspect of the mission is seeing “a patient who came in [in] a sick state leave a better person”.

“It's always good knowing that my role as a nurse is that I'm able to play a role in their healing and going back to their normal lives,” she said.

Young, a divisional officer in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on board the hospital ship, said it was good being in the environment, training and collaborating with health professionals while giving back to the region and his birthplace.

The 39-year-old, who is from Independence City in Portmore, St Catherine, where he attended Independence City All-Age School before moving on to Jose Marti Technical, migrated in 1996, and subsequently joined the US Navy in 1999.

Now in his 20th year of service, he said the opportunity to help patients in countries where aid is desperately needed is an opportunity of a lifetime that he cherishes. He said, too, that what resonates most on the Jamaican mission is being able to make a difference in the lives of children with cleft palates and lips.

“These surgeries, by time they (children) are 20, 22, going forward, we would have made a difference in their lives. Medical wise and eating wise, it's a big difference. That is something I keep remembering and thinking about,” he shared.

Lieutenant Commander Foster, the command chaplain on-board the ship, shared similar sentiments and described the opportunity to give back as “unique”.

“It is good to relieve the medical systems of these countries by providing care to nationals, to be able to have an opportunity to have some major function. The opportunity one has to come back, serve people and meet their needs is something unique. Jamaica will always be home. In Jamaica we have had the opportunity to reach people who need the help primarily in the areas of health care, and the ability to meet their needs is awesome,” said Foster, who was born in Spanish Town, St Catherine, and attended Crescent and Ensom City All-Age schools.

Also the coordinator for community relations, Foster, who has been serving the US Navy for 20 years and has been a chaplain for 13, is set to work with the Standpipe community in St Andrew in the coming days, by providing support to schools and children.

He said: “We go out to engage communities, help the schools and to engage the kids about opportunities they may have questions about. We also engage in projects like painting buildings, playing soccer, and other sports with them.”


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