COLON, PANAMA - When most people leave their ship at this port city on the tiny isthmus that separates the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, they are normally met by a local greeter, scenic tours and a cold tropical drink. For the daughter of a Keeseville couple, the scene awaiting her was much more tragic.
Navy Lt. j.g. Missie L. Leitl, daughter of Curt and Lynda Burl of Pine St., Keeseville, was one of more than 900 service members and other medical experts who daily met crowds of literally thousands of locals awaiting medical care during a four-month humanitarian and civic assistance mission at ports of call throughout Latin America and the Caribbean called "Continuing Promise 2009."
Leitl is an emergency room nurse aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, where she is not only helping assist those in dire need, but also receiving valuable training from those experiences.
Continuing Promise 2009 is a partnership with Latin America and Caribbean nations who share a common interest in making the Americas stable and secure. Through professional and military exchanges and exercises, stability, peace, and prosperity are preserved.
During the past couple of months, Leitl and her fellow shipmates have been bringing smiles to thousands of grateful local nationals throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, by putting in long hours and lots of hard work in the extreme heat, humidity, and rain.
"I work in the staff casualty receiving area. We'll respond in the event of a mass casualty or disaster situation," said Leitl, who is normally assigned to the Navy Hospital Jacksonville, Fla. "My daily duties include preparing patients for admission prior to surgery, which includes drawing blood, doing an EKG, and making sure that their radiology studies are complete."
The men and women assigned to the Comfort are providing medical and dental care both on board and on shore. They are also providing engineering assistance at various sites in the host nations by doing everything from repairing school playgrounds to renovating medical clinics.