PAITA, Peru (NNS) -- Eighteen years ago, a young man came to America. But, for a while, he didn’t know if he would ever make it to his parents’ side in Virginia, the place his parents called home after leaving Peru.
For Chief Hospital Corpsman Manuel Aponte-Blanco, a lab technician assigned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20), this was his reality.
“My future was in limbo as I was waiting to come to America,” said Aponte-Blanco. “My parents left for America, and my siblings and I were waiting for the day they saved enough to bring us to our new home.”
Once in America, at the age of 16, Aponte-Blanco went to high school, despite having finished his schooling in Peru.
“I remember my mother telling me that I wasn’t able to get a job yet,” said Aponte-Blanco. “So, I went back to school for two years. That’s where I learned and comprehended most of my English, and I made friends through playing soccer.”
Upon his graduation from high school, Aponte-Blanco found the United States Navy, where he signed his contract as a Hospital Corpsman.
“I was a painter and a cleaner before joining the Navy,” said Aponte-Blanco. “I always wanted to be a doctor in Peru, and I wanted to further my education, so I joined the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman.”
Aponte-Blanco has found great personal achievement while being attached to Comfort during the Enduring Promise 2018 initiative.
“It’s all about helping people,” said Aponte-Blanco about the mission. “I don’t know how to explain it, but in my heart, I know that I’m feeling great about this mission.”
Aponte-Blanco is the Chief Lab Technician aboard the ship. His role is to manage the laboratory and make sure that all processes are completed on time for the shipboard patients and at host nation medical sites.
“My job is to make sure all of our technicians are providing the right service and doing the right lab work for the patient,” said Aponte-Blanco.
Aponte-Blanco also works as a translator while aboard the ship and helps other corpsman and doctors aid in the care of patients while at medical sites.
“It all comes down to the people,” said Aponte-Blanco. “Interacting with them and helping them while receiving care is a very rewarding experience.”
The Enduring Promise 2018 initiative is Aponte-Blanco’s first medical assistance mission in his 18-year career.
“I’ve been all over the world, except to Central and South America and I’ve always wanted to do this mission,” said Aponte-Blanco. “I thank God and the Navy for allowing me to have this opportunity.“
18 years ago, a young man waited to come to America only to find himself back home helping and giving back to the country that raised him.
Comfort is on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative. Working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras, the embarked medical team will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by an increase in cross-border migrants. The deployment reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with the Americas.
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command & U.S. 4th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.