~ Fostering Traditions
By the Members of the 470th MI Brigade
When the 470th MI Brigade pulls the last tent peg from the ground, the surrounding military community sorely will miss the mission these unsung heroes have performed. No one doubts that the small contingent from the 513th MI Brigade will have a tough time filling the boots of the 470th in Panama.
Along with the mission, they will have to "party hardy" with a group of young people who expect to see them every Christmas. It is a tradition that began five years ago.
Ciudad del Niņo Christmas Party
In December 1996, the 470th MI Brigade hosted its fifth annual Christmas party for the Ciudad del Niņo orphanage. They brought food, candy, gifts and fun to the disadvantaged orphans, who returned the favor by warming the hearts of all the attendees.
The Ciudad del Niņo orphanage has existed for 26 years, providing for over 500 Panamanian boys, ranging in age from six to seventeen years, from extremely poor or dysfunctional families. The goal of the orphanage is to provide care and tutelage to its boys so they may be fully integrated into society as adults.
On a hot and cloudy Saturday morning in December, the 470th MI Brigade soldiers pulled into the orphanage for the last Christmas season to the expectant 191 faces of boys eager to begin the festivities. After the opening remarks by Col. Ron Burgess, 470th MI Brigade commander, and Dr. Fortunado, the director of the orphanage, activities began.
The kids opened the show with their version of the Jackson 5. A little Panamanian folk singer belted out the tunes while others were jamming on the bongos, castanets and maracas. The concert was quickly followed by the players of the Ciudad del Niņo theatre, whose interpretation of the "Nativity Scene" brought down the house.
The event turned into controlled mayhem as the soldiers began the childrens games. An instant hit was the "Gift-Fish Pond" (sponsored by the soldiers of Company D, 204th MIBattalion). The kids, armed with fishing poles, cast a line into a portable, real as life, cardboard fish pond. Each boy struggled to land a "toy" catch.
The egg toss and the water balloon toss were especially a blast. The water balloons kept the kids cool in the tropical heat, while company first sergeants proved to be a tempting target as soldiers encouraged the boys to douse their respective "Tops." Without a doubt, the biggest thrills came from HMMWV rides. Kids crammed into the vehicle for a cross country "terrain tour" of their farm.
Soldiers of Operations Company labored over a hot and smoky grill, preparing noon chow. By 1200, kids and soldiers lined up for American hot dogs and hamburgers, chips, potato salad and flavored drinks. Senior officers and brigade family members helped serve the younger boys. Soldiers from collections and exploitation company provided sno-cones and ice cream as refreshments.
The action shifted from food to candy as a throng rapidly grew around Chief Warrant Officer Lynn Rose, who orchestrated the Piņata Smash. With a riot baton in hand and a blindfold covering their eyes, the kids swung, poked and otherwise tried to dismember the elusive piņatas. Three piņatas were raised and almost as quickly broken, spewing candy to the delighted niņos.
Just as the last bits of candy were snatched, the young ones heard, "Ho, ho ho! (en Espaņol). Santa did not arrive in a shiny red sleigh, but in an olive drab green HMMWV(which tactically is a superior vehicle in the tropics). Santa and his helpers from the 470th MI Brigade came loaded with gifts. Each child received a present with his very own name on it
For the 470th MI Brigade, this was the last time the soldiers would share the Christmas holiday with the Ciudad del Niņo. Thus ended a long tradition of giving to the less fortunate in their host nation.
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Last Updated: July 02, 1997