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NEWS | May 13, 2021

Keeping morale up amid COVID-19

By Spc. Juan Carlos Izquierdo U.S. Army Central

Being in a deployed environment can cause stress but luckily Soldiers can depend on the MWR and USO for time to relax and decompress with things such as video games, musical instruments and a place to hang out with friends. Due to the coronavirus, using USO and MWR facilities became very limited. Sometimes they were completely closed.

Sgt. Seana Ruiz, religious affairs noncommissioned officer in charge, Camp Buehring, Area Support Group Kuwait, identified a problem with Soldiers morale due to most events being canceled because of the coronavirus. She took it upon herself to set up events and a place where Soldiers could relax.

“What motivated me was hearing the Soldiers complain, ‘there's nothing to do here.’” said Ruiz. “So I figure I'll give them what they want. If nobody else is doing it then I'll do it. Hearing what they want and giving them what they want really boosts their morale.”

Ruiz has spearheaded many events during her time in Kuwait. She organized events supporting Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Women's History Month. She also hosted two candlelight dinners and is currently planning a powerlifting competition taking place later this year.

“She has a passion for helping people,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Mary Miriti, Post Chaplain, Camp Buehring, Area Support Group Kuwait. “She has the spirit to set up all these events to help the morale of people and motivate them. She has the want to do it, she doesn't have to be pushed to help people that's why she has been so successful in helping people.”

One of the amenities that was sorely missed from the MWR and USO was being able to use their musical instruments and Ruiz remedied that problem by allowing Soldiers to use the instruments in the chapel.

“I was like you know go ahead if that's what's going to make you happy and make you feel like you’re not in this environment for just thirty minutes, play the drums, play the guitar, do whatever you need to do,” said Ruiz. “I've had a lot of Soldiers come to me and say, ‘I come here and I feel like I can escape for a little bit. I feel like I'm at home because I get to do something I love.’ When people tell me things like that it makes me feel really good like I've been able to change something for somebody.”

Ruiz is an Army Reserve Soldier and she works at a hospital in San Antonio, Texas, where she is also a shining light for patients during some of their darkest times.

“I do patient access in the ER and I love it,” said Ruiz. “It keeps me in what I like to do which is helping people. We get a lot of veterans and sometimes they just want to talk to somebody, and when they realize, ‘oh you're in the military and you're serving,’ they just open up. For them to know that you understand where they’re coming from is a huge deal for them.”

Ruiz prides herself on being a very good listener. She can see the difference in people after she sits down and gives them the opportunity to be heard.

“Knowing that you're changing someone's life even with something as minor as somebody coming in and saying, ‘I just need someone to listen to me because nobody else is listening to me.’ After being able to let everything out, you see them walk out and from the time they walked in they seem like a completely different person. Makes me feel like I have accomplished something huge for that person.”

“The chapel is supposed to close everyday at 5 but neither of us go home because we know that people don't stop needing help at five,” said Mitiri. “The other day we were both leaving around 11 at night and we saw a soldier sitting in front of the chapel and he said, ‘Oh I thought there was nobody here, I didn't know you worked this late.’ We both stayed up with that Soldier and left the chapel at 2 in the morning. That shows how dedicated she is to helping people, how dedicated we both are.”

Ruiz believes attitude and morale is contagious. If she is able to make a positive change in one person's morale and attitude that positivity will spread to those around them as well.

“When one person is negative everybody else feeds off that energy,” said Ruiz. “But if you have that one Soldier that's like, ‘Hey guys I found this really great place, and I know you like to play the drums, you can sing and we can teach you how to play guitar, lets go over there,” Now the soldier feels like they're doing something to help out their unit and they can raise the morale of their unit.”