Tuesday, December 22, 2015 –
FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico – Laughter, smiles and bright eyes welcomed members of the 1st Mission Support Command (MSC), U.S. Army Reserve - Puerto Rico and U.S. Army Garrison (USAG) Fort Buchanan staff as they spread holiday cheer by giving children from Casa Cuna and Sociedad Pro Hospital del Nino some Christmas gifts that were donated as a part of “Operation Feliz Navidad” on Dec. 22.
This year, USAG Fort Buchanan Commander, Col. Michael T. Harvey, decided he wanted to go a step further and help bring some holiday cheer to children around the Fort Buchanan surrounding community. “Operation Feliz Navidad” commenced as wrapped containers were distributed throughout Fort Buchanan to include the 1st MSC common areas.
“Operation Feliz Navidad" is a unique opportunity for everyone to be part of something bigger than themselves this holiday season,” said Harvey. “Their donations will make a boy or girl in a hospital or orphanage experience the true meaning of the Holidays – giving.”
The combined effort between sister services, federal agencies and the civilian community resulted in the collection of more than 700 toys that were distributed among four charities - Sociedad Pro Hospital del Niño de Puerto Rico (PR Children’s Hospital), Casa Cuna of San Juan, Casa de Niños Manuel Fernández Juncos and Hogares Teresa Toda.
“America’s Armed Forces, community and interagency partners provided these toys to share the goodwill of the season with the most deserving - our children,” said Harvery. “Their happy faces and big smiles tell us they are the reason for the season. ‘Operation Feliz Navidad’ is a true example that ‘Juntos podemos lograr mucho’ (Together we can achieve more).”
Brig. Gen. Jose R. Burgos, 1st MSC commanding general, Command Sgt. Maj. Harry Munoz, 1st MSC command sergeant. major, Santa Claus, the Three Kings and one of Santa’s Elves visited the children from Casa Cuna this morning. The gifts delivered will be saved and distributed among the kids on January 6, Three Kings day. The USAG Fort Buchanan and 1st MSC staff members were able to enjoy some quality time with the children during their activity hour.
Casa Cuna of San Juan is the first home in Puerto Rico used as an alternative temporary shelter for those children, from birth to 3 years old, who have been abused and/or voluntarily given up. Casa Cuna provides a safe environment and give children the love, care and respect they need while they are placed in a permanent home. Casa Cuna currently has 38 children on their premises.
The other facility visited by the USAG Fort Buchanan staff and the 1st MSC command team was the Sociedad Pro Hospital del Nino de Puerto Rico. This Children’s Hospital is in its 90th anniversary providing health care and treatment to children. It is the only Pediatric Health House on the island that provides services of prolonged stay and convalescence to patients 0-21 years with physical or mental impairment. It houses children with chronic and severe impairments that come from low income families. The majority are referred by the Family Department.
Presently they provide ambulatory, physical, occupational and speech therapy to over 3,000 kids and total health care to 30 children who live permanently in the hospital.
The USAG Fort Buchanan and 1st MSC staff, the Three Kings, Santa Claus and Elf were able to distribute gifts to a few children in the hospital. As the children received their gifts, they were anxious to open them and start playing. “Having the children come up to me and ask me to play with them reminded me of Christmas morning with my own children,” said Burgos. “I am happy that we were able to bring a little bit of joy to the children during this season. I am reminded that every day we have to be very thankful for our health and that of our children. These children are not that lucky, they do not have good health and they come from broken families. I know that we are not able to fix or change anything in their lives but I believe that during the time we were there, we were able to make an impact.”
Both facilities expressed their gratitude to the military and civilian personnel that were present to deliver gifts and spend some time with the children. Soldiers were thanked for their service and commitment to the community.
Even though we were unable to capture the joy the children demonstrated, every person present will remember the happiness these children felt. “Today was special for me,” said Munoz, “I have three names, three memories, that will stay with me forever and tonight I will sit with my family and thank God for them and our health. I think our visit to the facilities was a great Christmas gift for us and the children.”
“Operation Feliz Navidad 2015” was a great success, measured by the smiles and laughter of all the children that filled the rooms!