PORT-DE-PAIX, Haiti -- Along the unpaved streets of Port-de-Paix, Haiti, sit cracked buildings and homes. Poor construction is evident as Marines and Navy Seabees arrive at a medical facility about five miles from the coast of Port-de-Paix. The facility stands abandoned after being ravaged by time and nature. The service members acknowledge it would not be able to survive another natural disaster.
In Port-de-Paix, it is not easy for Haitians to get the medical care they need. There are two medical facilities, only one is operational. The other, mentioned above, was forced to shut down due to structural damage to the roof suffered from a hurricane.
The Navy Seabees with help from Marines from 8th Engineer Support Battalion, Logistics Combat Element of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Continuing Promise 2010 began construction to replace the roof, July 27, 2010.
The medical facility has been designated as one of two engineering sites for Operation Continuing Promise 2010. Continuing Promise is an annual humanitarian civic assistance operation aimed at providing medical, dental, veterinarian and engineering assistance. The operation serves as an opportunity for service members of all branches to work together and support those in need.
“We’re working in conjunction with the Seabees in putting sheet metal on the roof,” Gunnery Sgt. Joric J. Fowler, the engineer chief with 8th ESB, Special-Purpose MAGTF. “This is the only medical center in this whole region and that’s why it is of great importance to all the people here.”
Marines were willing to help and excited to learn the work of a Seabee.
Navy Lt. j.g. Kelly W. Stevens, the Seabee detachment officer in charge, said the Seabees mission in Haiti is to provide humanitarian construction. Marines were provided to augment the construction and gain valuable experience, he added.
Marines and sailors fought the Haitian heat as they were worked to repair the roof. The sun reflected from the sheet metal onto the Marines and sailor’s bodies throughout the day. However, their reward was well worth their efforts.
“We’re giving them another place to receive medical care,” said Fowler, a native of Baton Rouge, La. “We’re willing to make the efforts to come over here and help them out. It feels great helping out, and this is something physical [Haitians] can see that we have done for them.”
Cpl. Byron G. Molina, a combat engineer with 8th ESB, said he never did construction work until he joined the military. “It feels good to help out the Haitians,” said Molina, a native of Pembroke Pines, Fla. “You get a sense of well-being … just knowing that you made a difference here.”