SEMBACH, Germany - Soldiers from Dental Health Activity-Italy in Vicenza joined forces with other Vicenza based Soldiers recently to help clean debris from the streets of Verona after a violent storm wreaked havoc on the city Aug. 23.
The violent storm brought down several hundred trees which blocked city streets while flood water filled garages and homes. Together with city emergency workers, the small group of American Soldiers worked diligently to help get Verona and its inhabitants back on its feet.
The volunteer event was sponsored by the local Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers (BOSS) program.
The people of Verona welcomed the American Soldiers and provided them with water, coffee, and food as a token of their appreciation.
“Everyone we met was very appreciative of what we were doing. The word spread quickly and the community all came to check us out. Several shop owners even brought us water, food and coffee,” said Pfc. Jacobo Acevedo, a dental specialist assigned to Dental Health Activity-Italy.
Acevedo says this tragic event provided them with a better understanding and appreciation of what community involvement is all about.
“After taking part in this cleanup operation, it really made me more humble and it made me realize that we should not always take things for granted, because we don’t know what’s to come in the future,” said Pfc. Jacobo Acevedo. “I think it is important for us, as Soldiers, to participate in community events like this because it allows you to see what other people and communities are going through. It is one thing to hear it or see it on the news, but being there in person offers a totally different perspective.”
Participating in humanitarian events can help to break down barriers and stereotypes and can create goodwill among the host nation, its citizens and the U.S. military.
“As Soldiers stationed overseas, these community events help build morale, increase trust, and strengthens our relationship with the local population,” said Spc. Darrell Oliver, Jr., also a dental specialist assigned to Dental Health Activity-Italy. “While events like this may seem somewhat minor, the local community really appreciated us being there. As American Soldiers, we can change people’s perceptions, and at the same time, show them how appreciative we are to be part of their communities.”
The DHCE Soldiers were proud to be ambassadors of goodwill for the the U.S. Army.
“Any Soldier that is debating on whether or not to volunteer for these type events should not hesitate,” added Oliver. “I would highly advise any Soldier to volunteer for humanitarian events like this. Our presence can have a positive influence on another community and on the lives of those in the community. It means a lot to people when they realize they’re not alone after a hardship occurs.”
Local Italian emergency workers had nothing but praise for the U.S. Soldiers.
"Having the U.S. Soldiers in our midst was amazing,” said Ben Egbunike, an employee of Gruppo Uniservizi. “We've been working among ourselves but today is a different experience. I am very humbled to share this experience with these Soldiers."