|On Thursday, July 26, 2012, a volunteer with Remote Medical Access prepares a set of lenses to be cut into glasses. One of the largest humanitarian missions of its kind, Operation Lone Star is an annual joint exercise involving the Texas Military Forces, several other military and civilian agencies that partner together to provide medical, dental and vision services to the under-served communities of south Texas, while taking part in a disaster preparedness exercise.
Story by Laura Lopez
BROWNSVILLE, Texas - As hundreds of volunteers from various local, state and federal agencies provide free medical services to the under-served communities in south Texas, members of the Texas Military Forces spent Thursday, July 26, 2012, in Brownsville, Texas, receiving a first-hand look at everything from blood pressure checks and diabetes screenings to dental care and prescription glasses, as part of Operation Lone Star VIP Day.
A partnership that started 14 years ago is now the largest public health humanitarian mission of its kind in the United States and includes the Texas Department of State Health Services, United States Public Health Services, international representatives, as well as countless of volunteers from other local, state and federal agencies. For the man behind Operation Lone Star, it is the memories of constantly being sick in the second grade that has made Dr. Brian Smith, Texas Department of State Health Services Region 11 medical director come to appreciate medical care and those who continue to help others.
“Everyone involved in Operation Lone Star has been selfless over the years and been extremely dedicated to the mission,” said Smith. “It has been an honor and privilege to work with all of you over the years.”
A full-scale operation providing disaster recovery training and emergency preparedness, Operation Lone Star 2011 saw nearly 10,000 people for more than 53,000 services that included immunizations, hearing and vision exams, sports physicals for students, medical evaluations and exams, dental services and social services.
Also joining forces at this year’s exercise, members of the Remote Area Medical Foundation stated that while they have completed over 674 missions across the United States in the last 20 years, this was their first time, and hopefully not their last time, in Texas. Able to bring various medical, dental and vision services to the shorter one-week long Operation Lone Star, the message was clear.
“Some people may as well be on the moon in terms of the access they have to necessary medical care, that’s how essential this program is,” said Stan Brock, founder of Remote Area Medical Foundation.
Honored and thankful for the Texas Military Forces to be a part of Operation Lone Star for the last 14 years, Texas Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols referenced Hurricane Dolly from 2008 as a situation where this very mission not only enabled our service members to deploy quickly, but also get much needed assistance to the citizens of Texas.
“When we go overseas to support our country we sometimes forget about what is going on back here at home and Operation Lone Star is just one example of how we can demonstrate ‘Texans serving Texas,’” said Nichols.
Despite Operation Lone Star being able to provide free medical care to more than 100,000 south Texas residents over the last 14 years and its ability to continue growing and strengthening to include international partners, many feel the mission is still a critical part in an on-going battle.
“It will never be enough, but it’s a great start,” said Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos.