Stories From Jamaica,.... 



Priya Patel, D'14 writes an article about her experiences in Jamaica as a member of Group 1 2013.   The piece appeared in "The Probe",.....

Priya's Article 1.jpg
Priya's Article 2.jpg

Below is an article also written for "The Probe".  JonMark Thompson was a member of Group 1 2011,....


Email from Jeff Cash '97


Ahhhhhh...... Such memories... I was on the 1996 fall trip, second group. I remember very well sitting in our little minibus after Dr. Abubaker got stopped for speeding. Several tense minutes followed as he was escorted to a group of police officers carrying M16’s...... inevitably to “plead his case.” Much to our surprise and relief, he actually talked his way out of the ticket!!! We asked him what he said that got him off the hook and he replied: “I just looked at the officer and said ‘Hey, can’t you cut me a little break? I’m not from around here.’” What a wonderful time.....

An Article form "Sphere" Summer 2012

I was in the first group. Matt Cooke was with us and Dr. Barnes and another female faculty member. We were delayed getting down there by mechanical problems that caused the cancellation of our flight. The second day they tried to tell us again that our flight was cancelled and Stacey got in their faces until they put us on another flight. They told us we would have to run and she told them we were going to walk and they were going to hold that plane. They did.


Email from G. Preston Burns '99



Photo from Andria Chapman-Taliaferro '96

Andria has these notes in the back of her photo album.  The picture tells the story,...


Article by Jason Blundell '08


The article below appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch on July 19, 2009.  This is not about Jamaica,.... but everyone will find it well worth reading!

by Lt Jason Blundell, Guest Columnist
Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan: “You do realize that we’re at war right now, right?” These words were half-whispered with a cautious tone to me by an old girlfriend’s mother soon after I accepted my commission into the United States Navy five years ago. I shrugged my shoulders.
The year was 2004 and we had been engaged in Afghanistan for three years already and had begun our involvement in Iraq. I told the mother, who potentially could have been my mother-in-law, that everything was OK, and that there was little chance that I could be deployed to the war in the next four years while I was in school — or at all, since I was going to just be a mere dentist, not a soldier on the front lines.
You see, the Navy was going to pay my way through dental school and upon graduating, I would be commissioned into the United States Navy and serve as a naval dental officer.
.. .
Fast forward four years: I graduated from dental school, attended Naval Officer Development School in Newport, R.I., and — soon after — hurried down to North Carolina to my first duty station, Camp Lejeune, home of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.
When you serve with the Marines as a naval officer, it is called being on the “green side” — as opposed to the “blue side,” when you are stationed on a ship.
Even though Marines rarely like to admit it, the Corps falls under the Department of the Navy, so the Navy takes care of the Marines’ medical and dental care.
Interestingly enough, I had requested to go to Camp Lejeune, and not soon after, a classmate told me, “They did tell you that going there is a sure ticket, right?”
A ticket to deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan, she explained.
I shrugged my shoulders again. Growing up with a father as a naval officer, I had been exposed to the military life and had moved around every two to three years of my life. I had even lived overseas in Okinawa, Japan, for three years.
Yeah, so no big deal. This military thing is something I’m used to. And besides, if I wanted to be anywhere, it would be with the Marines, the best fighting force in the world — stocked with the most patriotic and bravest men and women I have ever come to know.
.. .
So there I was, less than a year out of dental school, and the big push to Afghanistan that had been ordered by late February 2009 was beginning to create a buzz around Camp Lejeune. An entire Marine Expeditionary Brigade — with more than 8,000 Marines and sailors — was tagged for the task at hand.
That task: to turn the tide of the war in Afghanistan back in our favor and continue to keep our country safe.
I thought, “Man, it’s almost springtime: beach parties, baseball games, and, eventually, those comfortably warm Eastern North Carolina summer nights.”
After some thought, I told myself, “They’re gonna have to wait until next summer.”
.. .
”You volunteered?! Why?” These words were uttered — half-spat — by an assistant at my clinic, a few months before I left.
There are several reasons I should not have volunteered. None seemed like a good one to me. In fact, most seemed very selfish. Why would I stay here and twiddle my thumbs while thousands of my fellow Marines and sailors left to do something great, something they volunteered for — something that I felt I had a duty to fulfill?
And so I started my deployment work-ups. Normally, they are six months long and try to cover almost any and every situation that one may come across during a deployment.
Sometimes during this training, I often wondered what I was doing. Why am I wearing this flak jacket and running around a forest carrying a 150-pound mannequin on my back? Why am I practicing putting on a gas mask? Why do I need to know how to fire a pistol? I’m just a dentist.
.. .
Fast forward another four months: I arrived at Camp Lejeune in the early afternoon, after stopping at a fast food restaurant for lunch. Who knows when the last time I’m going to have a nice, greasy hamburger, I thought? A friend, another Navy dentist who I had been neighbors with for almost a year, was kind enough to drop me off and take my car back to his house to look after while I was gone.
I walked up to the staging area, my two sea-bags in hand, and looked around. The hundreds of Marines’ and sailors’ dreary tan desert cammies contrasted deeply with the colorful clothes of their wives,
husbands, and children. I had heard stories about people waiting for hours and hours for the buses to pick them up. Our buses arrived in minutes.
I considered myself lucky that I didn’t have a wife or fiancée there to see me off (an entirely different story that would take pages to explain). I’m thankful that I haven’t started a family of my own yet, I thought. I wouldn’t want them to go through what these families are going through.
Because I had no one to say my goodbyes to, I was one of the first to get on the bus. This meant that I had to watch every Marine and sailor board the bus just seconds after saying goodbye to their loved ones. A scene one never forgets.
.. .
We arrived in Afghanistan on a Sunday.
It had to have been well over 110 degrees and the sun was beating down on us as soon as we got off the plane. We had to stand and wait for a little while as we were being checked in.
As we marched our way away from the plane, we noticed a line of Marines and sailors — also in a line — just staring at us. Some seem to be snickering, but most are just standing there, silently staring.
These men and women were getting on the very same plane we had just gotten off. They were going home.
They looked tired, sunburned, weary. The dry, sweltering heat didn’t seem to affect them as much as it did us. As their line began to move toward the plane, most let out a cheer. In our line, we were quiet, solemn, and unsure of what to expect.
We jumped on a bus — and dry, powdery sand began to kick up along the road and float through the air, choking our inexperienced lungs, covering our skin and clothes.
As we made our way off the bus and to our tents, I turned my head to a friend and said, “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” or some other really bad joke. Or maybe I just said it to myself under my breath.
.. .
Several weeks have passed. We now have cigar night every Tuesday and James Bond movie night every Saturday. Outside of our work, we create weekly events that would be considered commonplace, normal activities back home. They are the highlights of our week and are major treats here.
Little things that used to seem so trivial have become very important. There’s ice cream at the chow hall today? Let’s go!

A lot of our conversation seems to involve food. Was the prior meal was good, bad, or just OK. Then we talk about our next meal and wonder what it’s going to be. Sometimes we just talk about drinking cold beer again.
Some things are the same, but somehow feel different here. I still go to church every Sunday — but I walk into a chapel full of Marines and sailors armed with semi-automatic rifles.
I still eat three meals a day, although I notice that the usual buzz of conversation heard at a chow hall is more muted, more restrained than I remember back stateside. Every once in a while, one hears a raucous table full of laughter and eyes immediately dart over in that direction. As the laughter subsides, the short- lived smiles slowly leave the faces — and military decorum takes its place once again at the table.
.. .
”Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” I often think of this quote by Helen Keller, one of many on a list of quotes given to me by my sister a couple weeks before deploying. I reflect upon the pride and motivation the Marines and sailors possess while working and living in the face of danger. These men and women, some right out of high school, volunteered to come here. They weren’t drafted. They weren’t forced to come here. They volunteered to put themselves in harm’s way.
When I was 18 years old, I was at the University of Florida, studying science, philosophy, and literature - - but also drinking beer, going to football games, and taking fun weekend roadtrips. Sure, I was studying and going to class, but I sure wasn’t in a combat zone. These young Marines and sailors in Afghanistan are walking around in 120-degree heat, patrolling the desert, looking for the bad guys.
Most of the men here knew, from the minute they signed up, they were headed straight for the desert. This is what makes our country great. These young men and women are here fighting for all of us back home.
.. .
The sacrifices that one talks about never really hit home until one is immersed in a deployment. Things one normally takes for granted — like nice, long showers, good home-cooked meals, and a cold beer while watching a football game — are not part of the program here. There is no cable TV. There are no restaurants. There is no Wal-Mart or Target or 7-11.
Finally — and probably most importantly — there is no family here. There are no spouses or girlfriends or loved ones to come home to at the end of a long day.
These men and women here are all working to protect our lifestyle at a great, great cost to themselves — and their own.
Whether you agree or disagree politically with the war or the manner in which it is being fought, you should take a moment this summer and think about the men and women that are here with me. When you go to your neighbor’s barbecue, or take in a ballgame, take a longer, closer look at the Stars and Stripes waving in the warm summer wind, and think of the men and women that I admire so much. Ooo-rah.

Jason Blundell is a lieutenant in the United States Navy Dental Corps. He is currently deployed with the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade stationed at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. Originally born in Kansas City, Mo., he lived in many cities before going to high school in Virginia Beach and taking his undergraduate degree at the University of Florida. He recently graduated from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry in Richmond and plans to begin an oral and maxillofacial surgery residency at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center in the spring.