Nov 11, 2008 News
When the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge sailed into Guyana on Sunday, among the approximately 1,500 personnel were Guyanese Jerome Marks and Lieutenant Rayburn Massiah.
For them, Operation “Continuing Promise” is more than a humanitarian mission; it’s also about connecting to these shores in almost a spiritual way. There are, however, other Guyanese assigned to the ship.
Massiah and Marks are both members of the U.S. Navy. They have been travelling onboard the USS Kearsarge since it left the port of Norfolk, Virginia on August 6.
Since then, the assault ship has visited five nations in Latin America and the Caribbean, namely Nicaragua, Colombia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago.
This visit to Guyana will be the Kearsarge’s last on this mission, before heading back to the United States, and the timing is just perfect.
Jerome Marks last lived in Sophia, the country’s largest squatting area to be regularized, before migrating to the United States in 2005.
He soon joined the Navy, and after working as a member of the kitchen staff, he now works on the deck of the ship securing the helicopters as they prepare for takeoff and landing.
Before Sophia, he lived on the West Coast of Demerara, at Vreed-en-Hoop. Marks said he will be taking four days off to spend time with friends and relatives, especially his sister.
For him, being on the USS Kearsarge allows for an opportunity and a privilege — an opportunity to serve on a humanitarian mission, and a privilege to be supporting the work in his home country.
Massiah is “pretty excited” at having the opportunity to visit Guyana – the first time for him, since his parents left these shores almost four decades ago.
He serves as a civil affairs team leader aboard the ship, interfacing with the military and the host countries the ship visits.
He has been acting in this capacity for the past two years, and has served another four years in other capacities.
His father, Roderick, grew up in Georgetown, while his mother, Joan, grew up at Vreed-en-Hoop, West Coast Demerara.
His parents left for the U.S. after his great-aunt needed someone to take care of her, so all he really knows about Guyana is what his parents have told him in stories – crossing with the ferry at Vreed-en-Hoop, relaxing at the seawall, and having fruits in abundance.
Both of Massiah’s parents have died.
When he gets off the ship, he will be looking to reconnect with family members he has never met, especially the surviving members of his father’s family.
Massiah was enlisted to serve on “Operation Continuing Promise” at the last minute; and so, while on the ship, in between his busy schedule, he has been trying to make contact with all he can. He has just about 10 days to do so, and we wish him all the best.
The USS Kearsarge is the second of two U.S. Navy amphibious ships to be deployed to Latin America and the Caribbean this year for the “Operation Continuing Promise” humanitarian and civic assistance mission.
During the stop here in Guyana, as was the case in the five other countries, Kearsarge’s military and NGO humanitarian teams will be working with Government officials to provide free health care and infrastructure improvements to communities in need.
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