Eric Gargus

Eric Gargus

Stripes Okinawa

Think of taking time off, leave, or going abroad. What comes to mind? Perhaps some time for you, a way to reinvigorate or reenergize?

For one staff sergeant, time away from the day-to-day grind was spent reinvigorating a children's home in Thailand.

As Staff Sgt. Eric Gargus, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron structural craftsman, attended a service at the Kadena Chapel one Sunday in January, he learned of a trip to Thailand. The goal of this trip was to make a difference in the lives of children living in homes supported by the organization Remember Nhu, who have been taken off the streets and out of lives that could lead to tragedy.

"Remember Nhu deals with the prevention of human trafficking and they have scores of kids to care for," said Capt. Daniel Call, a chaplain with the 18th Wing.

Intrigued, Gargus did a little more research and found out more about Remember Nhu.

"When I heard about this trip, something inside spoke to me; (it was) a calling, I had to go," Gargus said.

Remember Nhu is a non-profit organization that supports homes for children in Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia with the intent of getting them off the streets and sparing them from human trafficking. The organization's namesake, Nhu, was such a child, before being rescued and adopted by Carl and Laurie Ralston from Portland, Ore.

Remember Nhu's approach at combating human trafficking is to help one child at a time by creating a loving, educational, peaceful and happy environment with spiritual guidance.

After learning all that he could about Nhu and the organization, Gargus reached out to a member of the Kadena youth ministry. They began discussing ideas for a brand new playground to be built on the grounds of homes in Northern Thailand. Talk became action, and before long the plans were drawn and the trip was underway.

"We came up with plans for the playground that we wanted to build for these kids, something for them to enjoy," Gargus said.

The playground went from the drawing board to reality.

"We used [about] 10,000 feet of rope and webbing to make the cargo nets that made up the playground. All the nets were hand tied by the teams (thousands of knots). The playground also included a 60-foot zip line," Call said. "Nothing is more satisfying than seeing 30 to 40 children delighted in the gift of the playground through the squeals and laughter that we saw the last day we were in Thailand."

Remember Nhu currently supports four homes with about 45 children in each home, with the hope of opening more in the future. Gargus got to spend time and work at these houses in Northern Thailand for a month.

"These kids were incredible," Gargus said. "We got to eat with them every day. I sat on the floor with one little boy that I saw eating by himself; the next thing I knew, there were kids surrounding me. The experience was life changing."

Since his initial involvement seven months ago, Gargus has decided to increase his participation.

"I want to go back someday, and am looking forward to returning soon and fulfilling my calling," Gargus said.

He also plans on continuing his support to Nhu, the organization and the children by raising money and volunteering as much time as he can.

"God has blessed me with a certain skill set needed for my job, as well as the love to help people," Gargus said. "Doing the job I love and helping people while serving God is a dream come true."

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