CAPT Tom Negus, CP09 Mission Commander:
The heat was severe, the work never ending, but the end was all that mattered. Under the baking heat of the Nicaraguan sun, UT1 Faulds and his team of Seabees kept hammering, kept wiring, kept working on. For ten days his team endured these conditions as they slowly, methodically, yet always professionally replaced over 8,000 square feet of new roofing on the village school in the town of Villa Nueva, Nicaragua. I had the honor to visit them a few days into their work, and was privileged to participate yesterday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the finished job.
What I remember from my first visit was the incredible heat up on the roof as they placed sheet after sheet of corrugated roofing over the trestles they reinforced. I remember the expanse of the school, and thinking to myself that perhaps they bit off more than they could chew with this job (of course, they certainly proved me wrong!). I remember the picture of Fidel Castro still posted to one of the school house walls. And I remember the attitude of all of the Seabees-one of calm professionalism and pride in what lay before them.
Yesterday at the ribbon cutting was a different matter altogether—Seabees were there, as always, sweaty and proud, standing in ranks beneath the omni-present heat. So was the US Ambassador, Robert Callahan, along with the Mayor of Villa Nueva, and the Mayor of neighboring Somotillo. There was a large number of press, and many cameras, and even more microphones to record all of our respective remarks. But what struck me most about yesterday were the school children, dressed in their clean white uniforms, sitting and watching, wandering through the much cooler interior of their new school thanks to the insulating tiles the Seabees installed beneath the new roof.
Some were playful, some pensive—but all were there to see their new school, with a new roof, and new doors, and new paint, and new wiring and new fans in each classroom . I watched some boys play basketball with a deflated volleyball on the central court where the Seabees had installed new basketball goals, I watched some girls as they walked a couple paces behind the “official party” as UT1 showed the Ambassador, the principal, and the Mayor his team’s work.
There is a new school in Villa Nueva, and though all the adults present know and could see the changes that had come in the ten days of work, it was these children who absorbed the most—this was to be their home where their dreams, their choices, and their character will be forged over the coming years. I think they knew more than we, the impact this work would have on their lives.
As I turned to leave for the final time, a sadness descended as I ruminated that our CONTINUING PROMISE mission was nearly complete. Then I heard the children laughing, and realized that the gift that these Seabees gave will not so quickly fade. For there is a new school in Villa Nueva, and these children will not let their dreams die.