By Pvt. 2 Jirad Williams, 402nd AFSB Public AffairsFebruary 10, 2012
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - A terrible accident involving Indian contractors working for the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade led to a simple act of compassion recently that revealed the cultural barriers that both separate and bind us all together.
A traffic collision took place Saturday afternoon Jan. 7 along Highway 30 involving a bus carrying contractors who work for the 402nd AFSB. The bus, filled with more than 30 passengers, was hit from behind by an SUV. The collision was so forceful that the driver of the SUV was killed upon impact, and many of the passengers on the bus suffered injuries, some very serious.
As news of the accident spread, Spc. Samuel Garcia, 402nd AFSB chaplain's assistant, received a phone call from Stephen W. Lockridge, 402nd AFSB deputy commanding officer. Lockridge wanted to organize a party to visit the four Third Country Nationals (TCNs) contractors still receiving treatment in two local hospitals.
The Brigade's Chaplain had recently redeployed and his replacement was still inbound, so Spc. Garcia reached out to Chaplain (Maj.) Kenneth Alford, 364th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), to join our small 402nd AFSB group, comprised of the DCO, Chaplain, Chaplain's Assistant and contractor representative, Ms. Iona Brewer. The 364th SC(E), like the 402nd, is assigned to the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) here in the ARCENT AOR.
"Mr. Lockridge wanted to show and communicate that we cared for our 402nd Brigade team members," said Alford. The party visited the two hospitals where the four patients were being treated. Some were recovering from their injuries and others were awaiting surgery, said Garcia.
"There was a patient that had deep cuts on his forearm and legs, and another patient had spinal problems caused by the impact. Another patient was going to return back to his native country of India to proceed with surgery there because his brother is a doctor there," said Garcia.
The last patient's hand was in a cast, his fingers having being cut badly during the collision, he said.
The 402nd Group brought food trays for the patients and their other visitors. "Most of them were also workers. They'd have a cousin or a brother-in-law working here as well," said Alford.
The four patients, all in their 30s or 40s, were clearly the breadwinners for their families back home, he said. He found that one of the injured workers was Muslim, two were Hindu and one was Catholic.
"It was a surprise to me that a Christian was there, so we prayed with him in a way that was meaningful and familiar to him," said Alford. Then one of the Hindu workers asked to be included. "He said, 'I pray to the Almighty, and I will accept prayers from everyone,'" Alford said. "I prayed with everyone that wanted me to pray with them."
The shared experience moved everyone to tears, said Garcia. "Both Mr. Lockridge and I wished them a quick recovery. Each and every visit counted; they were moved by the visit itself," he said.
Mr. Lockridge commented, "They make you all pretty tough down in India", which brought laughter from all. He told them they are an important part of the team and to get well soon.
Since then, all the injured workers have been released from hospital, but the memory of their exchanges still lingers, said Alford.
"The thing that impressed me the most, walking in, walking out of the hospital, were the expressions on people's faces, the same expressions that I've seen everywhere, in every hospital I have been, of people caring for their children, caring for their loved ones. You see those expressions across the world. It was a definite point of commonality," he said.
Often times, serving as a Soldier in Kuwait, we find ourselves separated from the local residents and civilians who work here on Camp Arifjan. But a simple act of caring for their fellow human beings brought home the lesson of human vulnerability that we all share.
"I was glad that I got to go out to the hospital, it was similar to what I would do back home," said Alford.
"I certainly think we bridged the cultural gaps with that trip. I really felt like a pastor that evening and I thank God for that."
"My job requires me to nurture the living, care for the wounded and honor the dead," said Garcia. "Whether it's fellow military members or civilians from around the world who are part of our team, the mission remains the same."