A twist of fate: when his 05 broke down in the Dominican Republic, a reserve pilot got the chance to meet the young man he had been sponsoring for years.
But what started out as a frustrating delay for the member of the 433rd Airlift Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, turned into a priceless moment--one he never thought he would experience.
Since 1997, Colonel Slaughter and his wife, Kendra, have supported, through financial contributions, Children's International, a humanitarian organization focused on helping overcome poverty through child sponsorship. Fran, the first child they sponsored, was from the Dominican Republic.
After Fran, the Slaughters began sponsoring Jeisy, who is also from the Dominican Republic. Jeisy was 12 at the time
"You're contributing to his welfare, whether it's clothing, books or anything the family asks for," Colonel Slaughter said. "The great thing about this organization is it is responsive to the donors and the children. If you send something, you get photos in return of the children and what they got with the money."
For example, Jeisy needed a baseball glove and used money from the Slaughters to buy one. Children's International sent the Slaughters a photo of the youngster with his new glove.
Over the years, Colonel Slaughter said he and his wife have received photos, letters and drawings from Jeisy. In return, they have sent cards just to stay somewhat in touch. However, they never realistically expected to meet the boy.
"I've been in the Dominican Republic before, and I thought years ago it would be nice to see the child," Colonel Slaughter said. "But four hours just isn't enough time." Four hours is generally the amount of time he and his aircrew spent on the ground in country.
But when the colonel's C-5 broke during a mission in June, it became apparent that he would have several days on the island.
"This gave me the opportunity and time to contact the organization" to try and arrange a meeting with Jeisy.
The chance to meet the boy made up for the disappointment of missing his son's 15th birthday.
"When I called my wife to tell her we were going to be late, she was very disappointed," Colonel Slaughter said. "But when I said I might get to meet Jeisy, she was so excited. It's a great opportunity to connect with someone we've been sponsoring."
The colonel called the Kansas City Children's International office and told them he was in the Dominican Republic and wanted to know if he could meet his child. The office gave him the phone number for a Children's International representative in the Dominican named Sophie.
He called Sophie at 9 p.m. To his surprise, she said she would go to the office to look up the information. But when she told him there were 30,000 kids with Children's International in the Dominican, Colonel Slaughter wasn't too confident she would find him.
To his astonishment, they not only found Jeisy, but Sophie called a social worker in Santiago to arrange for a meeting. They called the colonel back and told him the meeting was set up for 2 p.m. the next day.
The next day, he set out on his journey with a fellow pilot, Lt. Col. Dave Scott, who sponsors a child in Mexico.
"We rented a van, and they called me en route to tell me where to meet them and that they sent a translator with the father and son," he said. "His father took off work to be there with Jeisy."
Children's International provided transportation and the translator for Jeisy and his father.
Colonel Slaughter and his traveling partner parked their van in Santiago and took a taxi to the meeting place.
"We drove up, and there they were," he said. "I recognized him, but he was older than the last photo. I got out of the cab and gave him a big hug and shook the dad's hand."
The colonel was able to speak some Spanish and share some information about his family back home. Jeisy told him he was in the 10th grade and had just gotten his driver's license.
"We went to a cafe to talk," Colonel Slaughter said. "They were very interested in what I do and excited about the C-5. I told them we were taking a helicopter somewhere. They couldn't believe we could fit a helicopter in the plane."
Although their meeting was brief, the colonel said it was a meeting he'll never forget. He said he was truly impressed with the organization he's been contributing to for so many years.
"This validated the credibility of Children's International," he said. "Now it's more tangible. They are truly there for the children."
(Sergeant Babin is a broadcast journalist assigned to the AFRC public affairs office at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.)
By Master Sgt. Chance C. Babin
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|Author:||Babin, Chance C.|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2010|
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