Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Saturday, June 6

We arrived in Tumaco today after a three-day voyage from Panama. To the frustration of everybody on board, travelling from country to country involves unavoidable pauses in the mission’s humanitarian work. Everyone is looking forward to tomorrow, when the mission resumes in full swing.

Still, the last several days have been memorable for all aboard, and no HOPE volunteers will forget the inspiring example we witnessed of how the Navy honors a departed colleague.
We awoke Tuesday morning, our last day in Panama, to the tragic news that Chief Petty Officer Pamela Branum, one of the senior enlisted Navy personnel aboard, had passed away the previous night in her sleep. Her sudden death caused an appropriately somber mood to come over the ship. Sailors who had known, worked with, and loved Chief Branum for years comforted one another and shared her memory with those of us not fortunate to have known her well.

Those of us who have not had to deal with as much death as our military counterparts also learned a powerful lesson about their fortitude. At the nightly brief that evening, and then again at a memorial ceremony the following day, several of Chief Branum’s close friends spoke about her death. They movingly shared how much Chief Branum meant to them and how much they would feel her loss, and then each concluded with the same thought: that there is no greater way to honor Chief Branum’s memory than to dedicate this mission to her and, in that spirit, to redouble our efforts to help as many people as possible.


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