Operation: Upper Nile – Reflection from Navy Veteran Eric Smith

Eric Smith

I am probably the most hated man in the Gendrassa refugee camp, at least among the children here. It’s pretty funny in a way. I fully intended to come to South Sudan to help children in need. Children, that have faced war, malnutrition and an eight-week journey on foot to reach the safety of these aid camps.

Smith vaccinates kids in his “makeshift torture room.”

Instead, I have managed to strike fear deep into the hearts of every child that has stepped off of the relocation bus and into my domain. I have exacerbated the already serious psychological trauma of these young souls by running the vaccination station. Sudanese kids, like young ones everywhere, really don’t like needles. They cry. A lot. Especially, when I have to fireman carry one back to my tent to get his shot after he made a mad dash up the main road in an attempt to escape my clutches.

The big softie in me feels bad that I have to cause them yet more pain when I vaccinate them. The corpsman in me however, realizes that the pain is temporary, they’ll get over it and that my makeshift torture room, while cruel, is preventing them from more pain. More pain from diseases that are particularly cruel to the younger population. And of course, more cruel than I could ever be to a child.

Armed with such justification, I continue my mission. I continue to distract, deceive, chase down, grapple, inject, and then comfort crying children. Comforted myself, with the knowledge that the ends truly do justify the means. I guess I am helping children in need, after all.

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