We had two significant roundtables in preparation for Memorial Day. The first is about a ceremony for Medal of Honor recipients at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. If you might be in the area, read the transcript and see if you would like to get by. Likewise, if you're just interested in what sounds like a fine museum about an interesting carrier -- the Midway served from the end of WWII until the Gulf War -- and an epoch in naval aviation.
We also spoke with Navy Captain Peter K. Dallman, commodore of the USS Boxer. He gave us an update on Continuing Promise 2008, in which we are helping our neighbors in South America, including El Salvador.
You may remember this touching letter from a Salvadoran officer who served with us in Iraq. Many of his brethren are currently out at FOB Delta in Al Kut, not far from the Iranian border. He wrote:
The reason I volunteered is simple: there is a country in need. These people are going through a terrible burden. As you probably know, my country suffered for 12 years, going through that terrible cycle in our history. My country needed a helping hand, and your country, the United States, gave us that helping hand.
I think that if we can give just a small token of that solidarity back to that friend, it is so very worth it. So I know the feeling and if I can heal some of that, then count me in. If I had to come again, I surely would.
The Salvadoran soldiers are good people who want to 'pay it forward,' and to offer Iraq the same chance they have received. Just as Iraqi soldiers may someday help to stabilize some future conflict, and help that country's people find their way out of war, so the Salvadorans are today ready to stand with us.
And we with them, as brothers:
We're working side by side with the El Salvadorians. They have lots of docks and dentists right there in our clinics. And we're working side by side with the engineers at the site. And we're working very closely with their army to effect ground transportation and, you know, standard force-protection measures.... We've been very warmly received by both Guatemala and El Salvador. I think there certainly is a need here. And we also have learned much from the folks that we've been working with and treating. I would say there's been an overwhelming, sincere appreciation for our efforts and -- you know, our commitment to their countries and to their people. And that's been very gratifying and it's been constant and very visible that they've been very thankful for what we're trying to do here. We have been seeing on average 6 (hundred) or 700 patients a day total between dental, optometry and primary care. We saw over -- you know, close to five-and-a-half thousand primary care patients in Guatemala. We did -- we're up to 67 total surgeries for the deployment, handed out close to 1,000 glasses in Guatemala; over 2,000 optometry patients seen; close to 1,500 animals have been treated. So the work has been good. The Seabees have been busy. We worked on -- they worked on three schools, two culverts -- drainage ditches -- and then they re-route the church in Guatemala. And here in El Salvador, they're working on two schools, essentially, to basically get the school back up to where it can function in terms of running water, flushing toilets, working kitchen, a roof that's not going to leak and screens on the windows; lights and electricity standardized throughout the whole compound, things like that.
Just as in Thailand, where we were training to do good for people in future combined COIN operations by actually doing good for the citizens of an ally nation, so in El Salvador. At peace, we train by helping our friends help their own. At war, we join together to help the people among whom terrorists and murderers try to hide.
There are worse ways to run a nation, and for a nation to engage the world. This Memorial Day, we remember those who have paid the highest price for that mission, and honor all who have paid any price for it.