|BAY OF AMATIQUE, Guatemala, July 9, 2007 — As Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort begins its third week of a four-month humanitarian deployment to Latin America and the Caribbean, military and civilian organizations have unified efforts to provide medical, dental and veterinary care to those in need.
Partnership is a common theme for Comfort’s deployment, because of the variety of government and civilian organizations that have come together to provide support.
For Lt. Florence “Flo” Yarbrough, training officer for the embarked command directing Comfort’s mission, Destroyer Squadron 24, and Jean Muench, a pediatrician volunteer for Project Hope, working together is easy. They’ve been doing it for 26 years.
When Jean Muench gave birth to Florence Yarbrough, she had high hopes for her daughter. They were fulfilled as she watched her grow up into a responsible adult and a U.S. Navy officer. Muench had no idea that she would eventually travel to Latin America and the Caribbean with her daughter aboard Comfort, providing humanitarian aid to those in need as a Project Hope volunteer.
“I had known about Project Hope when I was a little girl in the 1960s,” said Muench. “But this particular mission, I first heard about earlier this spring from my daughter who was working with the Navy on the planning.”
Muench works as a pediatrician in Roswell, Ga., at a private practice in a suburban area, and when Yarbrough asked if she wanted to go, the timing was just right.
“It’s good timing with my work and responsibilities at home. I finally had some time to do this, and I had to go,” Muench explained.
“I asked her not really expecting her to say yes,” Yarbrough said, “but she was very much interested. She’s wanted to do something similar before. She tried to go on another mission to Africa last year and it got cancelled.”
Robert Leitch, the Project Hope medical director aboard Comfort, explained why Muench was perfect for the trip.
“She’s a very experienced pediatrician, who’s worked extensively in developing countries, and her husband was in the Navy and her daughter is in the Navy, so she knows both sides of the story,” said Leitch.
Yarbrough has worked for Destroyer Squadron 24 for two years, and was excited at the chance to help coordinate and execute a humanitarian mission.