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Thursday, December 31, 2009

JSOTF-P Members Pray and Sing Christmas Carols with AFP Troops

By Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public Affairs

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines-A dozen members of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, along with members of a local Baptist church, spent Christmas Eve singing and praying with patients at Western Mindanao Command’s Camp Navarro General Hospital Dec. 24.

Led by U.S. Air Force Chaplain Lt. Col. Steven Thompson, task force members shared the holiday with about 40 Armed Forces of the Philippines members and hospital staff who were unable to be with their families for the holidays.

“For me, the caroling was a great opportunity to celebrate Christmas together,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Michael Boyer. “To just go there and sing songs that are familiar to everyone across the world made it feel so much more like Christmas,” he said.

Additionally, a handful of children and adults from Zamboanga Baptist church also participated. Thompson has an ongoing partnership with the church, after recently giving a sermon there.

“The patients and staff at the hospital along with the children in the neighborhoods were so appreciative that we would share with them, but we were the ones who were the most blessed,” said Thompson.

Task force members sang holiday carols such as “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” and “Joy to the World.” Church members brought a guitar and several skilled vocalists from their choir, enhancing the performance.

As troops went from room to room, church members and JSOTF-P troops sang songs and prayed with the patients and staff at the hospital. In one room, an AFP soldier held the chaplain’s hand while they prayed together.

The following day, 20 JSOTF-P members went caroling at Edwin Andrews Air Force Base and visited with numerous Philippine Air Force airmen and their families.

JSOTF-P’s chaplain services office has organized several projects with the AFP and Zamboanga community. Events have including disaster-planning courses, visits to local orphanages, networking with area churches, and delivering clothes and other supplies for Medical Civic Action Projects.

Not only has the chaplain’s office served the Filipino community, they spearheaded a stocking stuffer project for other servicemembers. Volunteers put together more than 600 holiday stockings for everyone assigned to JSOTF-P, made up from donated care packages from U.S. citizens, non-profits, and businesses.

The current chaplain team will be departing JSOTF-P at the end of January, having helped thousands of AFP and U.S troops via these visits and subject-matter exchanges.

“It has been a great honor to serve the troops and local residents. I am glad that I could assist the people here. I have really enjoyed my time in the Philippines, and I am glad we can help,” said Air Force Chaplain Assistant Master Sgt. Rose Gould.

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