In the Air Force for 16 years, Tech Sgt. Carlos Ramos Sanchez had been overseas a few times. For his first deployment, something lasting longer than a few days or a couple of weeks, Sanchez was on the seas.
Sanchez and four other medics stationed at Cannon Air Force Base returned to New Mexico last weekend after four months aboard the Navy medical ship USNS Comfort.
The five returnees were given a homecoming welcome at the Cannon clinic Monday.
“It was actually a great experience. We were on a training mission,” Sanchez, 35, said. “We took care of and treated a lot of people.”
The stated goal of the USNS Comfort is “to provide a mobile, flexible and rapidly responsive” floating medical service for urgent care to support amphibious task forces, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force elements.
During the time the Cannon medics were on board, the Comfort traveled the coasts of South and Central America.
“Our last day there, in Nicaragua, we gave out 8,400 prescriptions. We were providing care for the children to the elderly — from dental care to eye care to general health,” Sanchez said. “People were so thankful every day; I don’t know how many times I was blessed.
“(In El Salvador) I met a lady who was 100 years old. Her and her grandkids walked to the appointment,” he remembered. “I told them to give her a hug every day.”
The whole trip was momentous for Airman Velia Bravo, 25.
Coming home to her daughters, Annabel, 7, and Alex, 5, Bravo also returned a married woman. On her way back to Cannon AFB, she met her fiance in Virginia Beach, Va., and went through a marriage ceremony Saturday.
Sunday, she was back in Clovis while her husband remained at his station on the East Coast.
“I worked in sick bay, where I treated our own patients from the ship. But then, when we’d get off the ship, that’s when we’d treat the (indigenous) patients,” Bravo said. “If people needed surgery, they’d come back to the ship for surgery or whatever.
“It was definitely a new experience and probably something I’ll never do again in my lifetime,” she added. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”