MANAS NCO DONATES ART TO FUND SURGERIES FOR NEEDY CHILDREN

MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan (AFPN) -- Where most just see trash, Tech. Sgt. Robert Sommers sees possibility. 

On any given day, the 376th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron operations management NCO in charge can be found sorting through leftover wood scraps in his shop, which he paints on his off-duty time. The artworks he creates are sold and the proceeds are donated to help pay for heart surgeries for children whose parents are unable to pay for the surgeries themselves.

"Possibilities are endless, everybody has a talent and can use it to help others who are less fortunate," said Sergeant Sommers. "This is what I am trying to do."

The Children's Heart Ward is a facility that houses infants and children who need surgery to correct congenital heart defects stemming from a combination of inherited genes and environmental factors such as illness or chemical exposures to the mom during pregnancy.

Locally, there are two doctors who perform these surgeries free. However, there is one piece of equipment, an oxygenator, needed for each surgery, and it costs $560.

The Manas Air Base Outreach Society has addressed that need with its Children's Heart Ward focus group. Airmen raise money to pay for the oxygenators and sometimes other types of surgeries so that more children can be assisted. Since the standup of this foundation, 97 surgeries have been supported, most by covering the cost of the oxygenator.

During his five-month tour, Sergeant Sommers' donated proceeds have paid for three oxygenators. 

"There are many people in this world, who by some circumstance are less fortunate than we are," he said. "I viewed this tour as a possibility to help a few of these people."

Chief Master Sgt. Lisa Sirois, the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing command chief said Sergeant Sommers embodies the spirit of service of today's Airmen.

"He epitomizes our Air Force Core Value of 'Service before Self,'" she said. "Not only did he honorably serve our great Air Force here at Manas Air Base, but he also represented our enlisted corps extremely well to our Kyrgyz hosts."

Sergeant Sommers said it's about human nature, helping others in need. 

"It has really brought an incredible amount of joy to my heart to know that I could use a talent that the good Lord gave me to assist someone else," Sergeant Sommers said.

"There are ample opportunities for all of us to do the same. Use your talents to help someone else and then you will be blessed, you'll experience some of the best feelings of your life as you serve others in need, he said."  

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