A group of U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll residents and friends recently delivered much-needed water and supplies to a remote part of Kwajalein Atoll—the island of Ebadon.
Donations were collected at the Republic of the Marshall Islands Liaison Office for weeks and the supplies were transported by boat first up to Roi-Namur and then onward to Ebadon in time for Easter.
“After docking in Mejatto, the larger neighbor island, we offloaded supplies to the long, yet shallow banana boats,” said David House, office of the deputy chief of staff, engineering, and spearhead of the operation to donate supplies. “We boarded the small boats and made our way to Ebadon.”
House said that the pilots of the small boats were elated with the supplies but possibly were more elated with having visitors. “News of our arrival had spread through the community and they were impressed with having the first U.S. Army lieutenant colonel (Lt. Col. Ben Jackson) to overnight with them.”
Thought not a sanctioned Garrison effort, the RMI knew of past aid programs to reach and support the needs in the atoll. “They (the people of Ebadon) were so appreciative of the Kwajalein, Roi-Namur and outreaching U.S. supporters coming all the way to ease their burdens and fellowship for an evening,” House added.
“After greeting some of the people, we offloaded supplies and were taken to a small house on stilts, surrounded by a small fence,” House said. “A local gentleman brought us small snacks and it was explained to us that we needed to stay in the controlled area, not for the safety of the inhabitants, but for our safety. The man explained that island spirits would not recognize us and might take us as invaders. Given that Ebadon has a long culture of battling neighboring tribes and had many wars fought in the past, we obliged and stayed put.
“Later that evening, a few men from the village came to collect us from our quarantine area and brought us to the town center,” House said. “In the background, we heard a ukulele and distant singing. The sounds grew louder as the entire village entered, slowly walking toward us, singing the most beautiful and welcoming songs. They welcomed us with smiling faces. The children were curious but shy at first, growing bolder as the songs continued.”
In the Marshallese culture, both land and office are passed down to the matriarchs of the island. “A stoic and poised woman – the Chief or Leroj – sat at a nearby table to ours but deferred the introductions to very colorful gentlemen who spoke to us for some time,” said House. “They spoke about the supplies and how needed they were. They spoke about the children and how they would benefit from the school and hygiene supplies. A gentleman made it very clear that they were honored by our efforts and even more so that we were spending time with them, learning and fellowshipping.”
Jackson offered words of kindness and respect to the people of Ebadon. “I offered comments to our brothers and sisters thanking them for their hospitality of hosting us, as well as the outpouring of love and support not only from the inhabitants of Kwajalein but from others all over the world in support of the people of Ebadon,” House said.
After the speeches, every man, woman and child in the village came up to the table and shook hands with the visitors. “One by one, we were formally introduced to the people, the island and any spirits who might be observing our presence,” said House. “The Easter Food Drive brought supplies to the people of Ebadon, but in some way, it gave us back more than we ever imagined.”