The Marine Corps is home to thousands of Marines born in places other than the United States. These Marines are used to deploying all around the globe, sometimes at a moment’s notice. Sometimes these special individuals get the unique opportunity to return to their home country proudly wearing the eagle, globe and anchor.
Six Marines currently deployed to the Caribbean, Central and South America spent ten days in their home country, Haiti, where they served as translators for Marines and Sailors of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Continuing Promise 2010 and USS Iwo Jima.
Gunnery Sgt. Felder Domond, Cpl. John H. Michel, and Lance Cpl. Frantz Rosemond, natives of Port-au-Price, Haiti, Staff Sgt. Vladimyr Merci, native of Liancourt, Haiti, Staff Sgt. Vanes Alabre, native of Port-Salut, Haiti, and Sgt. Melvain St George, native of Montrouis, Haiti, traveled from medical sites to engineering sites translating Creole to English and English to Creole to ensure key leaders of Haiti and the USS Iwo Jima knew how daily operations were being executed and ensured the Haiti crowd remained calm, as they waited to seen by a medical provider. Their presence was absolutely essential in the success of the humanitarian mission.
During the CP10 mission in Haiti, personnel aboard the USS Iwo Jima provided medical, dental, optometry, veterinary and engineering services to the people in Port-de-Paix and Saint-Louis de Nord.
Domond from Combat Logistics Regiment 27 and staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Logistics Combat Element, and Merci, a supply chief with Marine Air Control Squadron 2, Command Element, worked with United Nations Haiti National Police, mayors of Port-de-Paix and Saint-Louis de Nord and leaders from USS Iwo Jima in translating plans and missions of the operations in Haiti.
At the medical sites, when hundreds of Haitians crowded and formed disorganized lines, Domond and Merci intervened and restored order before the scene turned into a riot.
“We needed to calm everyone down in order for (Haitians) to receive the help they were waiting for,” said Domond. “We feel like this is where we were born, and we wanted to help them out by simply talking to them and without anyone causing violence.”
Aside from their translating roles, the six Marines were able to talk among their fellow Haitians. Staff Sgt. Vanes Alabre said many Haitian citizens remembered him when he went out to the different sites.
“We would pack up and leave pretty early and before I left they would thank me and the Marines for what we were doing,” said Alabre, an aviation life support systems technician with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 774, Aviation Combat Element of Special-Purpose MAGTF. “The next day I would return to the same site, and they always said hello. It was very humbling to be there and help them out.”
For some Marines aboard the USS Iwo Jima it was there first time stepping onto Haitian soil during a deployment. For Merci and St George, it was there second time deploying to Haiti in 2010. Shortly after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 12, 2010, Merci, and St George, embarked aboard the USS Bataan with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit en route to Port-au-Prince for Haiti relief efforts.
“My mom never wanted me to join the Marine Corps,” said Merci. “It wasn’t until I told her that I was going to Haiti after the earthquake to go and help our people. She was proud to know I was going to help our people, and if it weren’t for me being in the Marine Corps, I may have not gotten the chance to go back and help.”
During the time that St George and Merci spent in Haiti from January to April, they served as translators, so they could understand how the Marines were providing aid in clearing out debris and passing out food and water.
“It was extremely rough seeing what the tremendous damage the earthquake did,” said St George, a supply clerk with 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, Ground Combat Element of Special-Purpose MAGTF. “Helping out was a noble deed, and it was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed my time helping out after the earthquake and helping out the people in Port-de-Paix. They don’t have the same medical options we have in the U.S., and it was nice to see that we can give them a helping hand.”
When the Haiti-native Marines were in Haiti, they were home. They were able to show that they can support their countries … both the United States and Haiti.
“This by far has been the highlight of my Marine Corps career,” said Alabre. “I was able to go home and help my people during a deployment and it was one of the best moments I’ve had so far.”