ASCII (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

PISA, Italy – When a group U.S. Army firefighters from Camp Darby walked into Pisa hospital, the eyes on a young man named Federico began to sparkle.

Others, Anna, Simone, Lorenzo – all children cared for at the hospital’s pediatric oncohematology and pediatric departments, were filled with amazement as the delegation arrived Monday, to offer a “friendly firefighter” demonstration on fire prevention to them and their families.

It was a welcome break from their routine of healthcare procedures.

Federico, who was scheduled for surgery that day, took lead on interpretations as he knows Italian, Spanish, French and English.

“I have been studying languages for five years,” he said. “Maybe one day, I may come to work at Camp Darby or why not join the American Army.”

Earlier this year, Camp Darby delivered gloves and face masks donated by the U.S. military to Pisa Hospital and Livorno medical facilities. The visit was a follow up community outreach event coordinated by the public affairs office.

Camp Darby Fire and Emergency Services Chief Brent Collins, Assistant Chief Bryant Benitez and firefighter Antonio Salsedo had a simple goal – offer a diversion to young people battling diseases amid isolation brought by the pandemic.

In a small yard behind the hospital entrance, children watched as a firefighter dressed in protective gear and tested his equipment. They learned fire prevention tips and some joined in for photos. Others were able to watch from their room windows.

ASCII (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Joining them was Lt. Col Miguel Flores, Commander 405th Army Field Support Battalion Africa, who is also a cancer survivor.

“With the example we set, our determination, strength, a big smile and with every little sign that we leave in this world, we will be able to face any difficulty, no matter how hard we will have to fight,” Flores said. “Just never give up.”

Children and parents echoed his sentiment, saying “never give up” in Italian, “Non mollare mai”.

Dr. Gabriella Casazza, the head of pediatric oncohematology, explained how COVID-19 affected health care for the children and underlined the difficulties encountered over the past year.

“This year their only distraction was the one parent who was allowed to stay with them, no other interpersonal relation due to COVID pandemic, today I saw happiness in their eyes,” Casazza said. "Today is the first day that our children go back to a certain feeling of normal after a long time, and we are thankful for our American friends for this opportunity."

ASCII (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Dr. Domenica Mamone, director of the hospital’s pharmacy for medical devices, said the small gesture from the Americans meant the world to the kids.

"With unity and friendship we all come together in a common struggle, where the main protagonists and masters of life are these young people who are faced with such harsh trials and set an example for us all,” Mamone said.

Robert Chartier, Deputy Garrison Manager, told the children and staff that he was grateful to take part.

“It is a great honor for us to be here today,” Chartier said. “We live in your area. We are grateful for all that we have learned from these guys today. We are also grateful for the incredible support that the hospital in Pisa has always provided to our staff.”