Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Scott members provide vision on humanitarian mission

by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

10/28/2014 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- For more than two years the Scott Optometry Clinic has collected used glasses and 700 pairs made their way to Guatemala this past Spring as part of a humanitarian mission called "Beyond the Horizon."

Not only did Capt. Eric Owens and Tech. Sgt. Latoya Cason bring the glasses, but this optometrist and technician team assigned to the 375th Aerospace Medicine Squadron also attended to 1,500 patients, helping them to regain their vision.

"Patients, from infants to elders, stood in line for a long time in really hot weather to see us," Owens said. "Some had not been to a doctor because of the cost of medical care or the distance to a medical facility. Many of them had conditions such as Glaucoma, severe dry eye, pink eye, cataracts and vision correction."

Cason screened patients to find out their history and medical concerns, and distributed medications. She said her most proud moments were seeing people smile as they put on the glasses they brought.

"I remember helping a male who was in his 60's," she said. "After giving him his glasses he began smiling and said he could see the tree leaves clearly for the first time. Sometimes you don't realize how thankful you should be for what you have until you go somewhere else and see people who have less. They are very appreciative for everything they have. All the Guatemalans were very friendly and thankful. People would come to the clinic for care and return the next day bringing in food to thank us."

For both Team Scott members, this was their first time supporting a humanitarian mission. They were part of a larger military team specializing in engineering, construction and health care who deployed to Zacapa, Guatemala, to provide needed services to communities while receiving valuable training. The mission, led by the U.S. Southern Command, is an annual joint foreign military interaction/humanitarian exercise which helps foster relationships with partnering nations.

Owen and Cason also worked with an optometrist and technician from Maxwell AFB, Mississippi, who brought 1,500 pairs of glasses. The other medical specialists present were women's health, pharmacy, dental and dermatology. The staff worked in two school settings with no running water or air conditioning, and temperatures over 100 degrees. A total of 7,000 patients were seen by the six medical specialties.

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