Patriot Express receives a warm welcome
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan - Marilyn Ferguson, a renowned author wrote, “Each of us is – potentially – the difference in the world.” Enter Spc. Rafael D. Morales Herrero, Echo Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery, along with his wife, Maribel A. Paulino and their sons, Sebastian and Julio. In February, Herrero and his family made the decision to start welcoming the passengers aboard the Patriot Express at Kadena Air Base because they saw a need.
This one of kind program evolved from their own experience, after a long flight, delays, caring for two young children, juggling carry-on luggage, suit cases, while trying to maintain some amount of sanity, as they arrived to a place they would call home for the next three years. Their first hour was at best, awkward.
“When I got here with my family, we realized when families or single parents arrive with their children they need help with the luggage. Also after a long journey it’s always good to have someone who can assist and provide you with a smile and a warm welcome, receiving some goodies and refreshments to make you feel that you arrived home and everything will be fine,” said Herrero.
Paulino began volunteering at the USO after their arrival and brought up her family’s idea to start a welcoming station for the Patriot Express and their idea soon became a reality with the support of the USO. Paulino and Herrero not only started the program they are active volunteers to greet the Patriot Express once a week.
“As I observed passengers arriving and the stress on individuals, families and even pets, I was amazed by the impact a thoughtful smile, a cold bottle of water, a piece of candy, and a teddy bear could bring. Many families have reacted in a positive way; they are surprised that someone is waiting for them at the terminal to assist by pushing their luggage or to give them a refreshing drink or a teddy bear to their children. For a moment they forget about the long journey allowing them to think positive about this place,” said Herrero.
“When we walk by the Exchange or other places on Kadena, many individuals and families thank us. They remember our faces and that tells me that we made an impact on their lives in a positive way,” explained Herrero.
The USO also expressed how this program has positively impacted them as well when Robin Miller, USO Okinawa Area Director said, "One of the most important things the USO can do for our service members and their families, is to be the welcoming face when they arrive on Okinawa. That tiny gesture shows how much the USO cares and that that we are a place not only for rest and relaxation, but a location where they can connect and learn about this new place they will temporarily call home.”
According to Susan Poe, Kadena USO Director, the Welcome Patriot Crew, welcomes 200 plus travelers per week, assists with luggage, answers questions and provides, water, juice and light snacks with a smile.