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Why we serve, viewpoint from Haiti

"In this picture, I'm visiting with orphans who have special needs. We are sitting under the 'BIG TREE' that provides shade and hope for the special-needs children as they sit under it for their own special hour during the day. "

Tech. Sgt. Bambi Putinas, lodging and billeting manager with the 24th Air Expeditionary Group, sits with special-needs children at the New Life Children’s Home in Haiti March 9, 2010, under the big tree that Putinas said, “provides shade and hope.” Putinas and other members from the 103rd Force Support Squadron that are deployed used this time to hand out care packages that they received from the states to the children. (Photo courtesy Tech. Sgt. Bambi Putinas)

Senior Airman Danielle Cummings (center), lodging representative with 24th Air Expeditionary Group, spends some downtime under the cover of the “big tree” at the New Life Children’s Home in Haiti with special-needs children March 9, 2010. Cummings was afforded the opportunity to visit the orphanage toward the end of her deployment which started in early January of 2010. (Photo courtesy Tech. Sgt. Bambi Putinas)

Senior Airman Danielle Cummings (center), lodging representative with 24th Air Expeditionary Group, spends some downtime under the cover of the “big tree” at the New Life Children’s Home in Haiti with special-needs children March 9, 2010. Cummings was afforded the opportunity to visit the orphanage toward the end of her deployment which started in early January of 2010. (Photo courtesy Tech. Sgt. Bambi Putinas)

Tech. Sgt. Christopher Jones, lodging and billeting manager with the 24th Air Expeditionary Group in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, embraces new friends at the New Life Children’s Home in Haiti during a visit March 9, 2010, to hand out donations they received in the mail from friends and family in the U.S. (Photo courtesy Tech. Sgt. Bambi Putinas)

Tech. Sgt. Christopher Jones, lodging and billeting manager with the 24th Air Expeditionary Group in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, embraces new friends at the New Life Children’s Home in Haiti during a visit March 9, 2010, to hand out donations they received in the mail from friends and family in the U.S. (Photo courtesy Tech. Sgt. Bambi Putinas)

Port-au-Prince, Haiti -- On Tuesday, March 9, 2010, we were fortunate to visit the New Life Children's Home. It is an orphanage started by an American that has Haitian orphans and children with special needs residing on the compound. When we went, we brought donations that we received in the mail from the states to give to the children. We also got to play, hug and talk with the children. It was a great day, full of hope and love for all who were there.

While at the orphanage, we were able to meet with kids that had special needs. All of us gathered under the "BIG TREE" that provides shade and hope. The special-needs children sit under it for their own special hour during the day. Most of the day, they watch the other children play, so it is a nice change of scenery for them. It is their time under the tree.

But the special-needs children don't look sad when they see the other children playing; they have the look of happiness knowing that the other children are having fun. The other children also help with the special-needs children. Everyone in this home helps each other and, most of all, the love they share is easily felt.

Our 103rd Connecticut Air National Guard team has been deployed since late January to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Our team has done and continues to do an outstanding job in austere conditions. Our mission has included search and recovery of remains at the former Hotel Montana, now a mountain of rubble. Proudly, all of the Americans who were present the day of the tragedy have been recovered and sent home. Originally, we volunteered to do search and recovery to help the Army with mortuary affairs, but now our focus has shifted to other Services Flight missions. We also worked with civilian mortuary, where we were able to assist in preliminary identification of remains, tag and record personal effects, and prepare and ship remains back to the U.S. Both of these tasks are physically and mentally challenging, but extremely rewarding.

The work we were doing was hard, but gave us all a sense of accomplishment knowing that the people we found were going home. Now, at the end of this deployment and having visited the orphanage, we have a sense of hope. Seeing the children made every hard moment worthwhile.

The kids made us realize why we serve.