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Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom

Navy chief goes home on medical support mission

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob Waldrop)

For some, reunion is a simple and hollow engagement ­— existing in great frequency, and holding little weight on an individual's life. For others, it is a sought-after moment, a serendipitous experience that is immediately followed by the feel of a warm embrace and serenaded by sobs of joy. The latter has the undeniable potential of being a rock-solid memory, one that would never be forgotten. This feeling is amplified considerably when someone reunites with the one place that gives them all the comfort and joy in the world; home.


In this case, Chief Personnel Specialist Angie Burns, from Cali, Colombia, reunited with the country of her birth when the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) arrived in Turbo, Colombia, Nov. 14, 2018. Burns was born in Cali, Colombia, several hours south of Turbo, and feels that this mission is important to her and all of her countrymen.

"It's a great experience for me to see all of this," said Burns. "I always hear about missions like this, but I haven't done one yet. Especially coming down to Colombia where I know there are so many people in need."

Chief Personnel Specialist Angie Burns shows Juan Sebastian, a Colombian boy and former patient, a map during his tour of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, in celebration of his 10th birthday.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob Waldrop)

In 1994, Burns moved to the U.S. to follow her mother when she was 13 years old. She lived in New Jersey in her mother's home and in the community. She barely spoke English before joining the Navy in 1999.

"I was not really exposed to it that much," said Burns. "All of my friends spoke Spanish. All of my friends were Colombians. You always find the comfort zone and the comfort zone for me was to still be around Colombians and people who spoke Spanish. So, there wasn't really a need for me to speak English prior to the Navy, because everyone spoke Spanish."

Fast-forward 19 years and Burns is underway with Comfort supporting Enduring Promise 2018 as the deputy dispersing officer. Along with her daily duties of managing money for the ship and the crew, Burns found a niche that has been highly sought after on the mission; translating for Comfort's leadership.

Any part she can do to help the Comfort team work to complete the mission at hand, she is happy to support.

"The mission is mainly a medical mission and I am not in that field," said Burns. "I can't take someone's blood pressure. But, it's an honor to be out here and helping whoever needs it with the little bit I can give to the mission."

Burns has enjoyed her time being back in Colombia and believes that this mission has been making a great impact on people's lives in this part of the world.

Chief Personnel Specialist Angie Burns gives Juan Sebastian, a Colombian boy and former patient, Task Force 49 patch during his tour of the hospital ship USNS Comfort, in celebration of his 10th birthday.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob Waldrop)

"I spoke to some of the patients and they are so grateful," said Burns. "They don't get tired of telling you how grateful they are. One day, a little boy was onboard and I was translating for him. Everywhere he and his mother went, they kept saying they were so grateful and thanking everyone for everything we were doing for her son. I think that we are making a great difference."

In a couple of days, Burns will say, "goodbye" to Colombia and will continue to support the Enduring Promise mission in Honduras during Comfort's next scheduled mission stop.

Comfort is on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command's Enduring Promise initiative. Working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Honduras, the embarked medical team will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by an increase in cross-border migrants. The deployment reflects the United States' enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with the Americas.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.