Operation Golden Pheasant

I threw the chocolate bar as far and high as I could. My cohorts and I watched in amazement

as a dozen or so Honduran children came running out of the tall grass.   They grappled with one another for bragging rights and the chance to eat an American candy bar.
      It was 1987 and I was a member of the United States Army. My unit, 3rd of the 27th Wolfhound Battalion, was part of a larger joint task force with the 7th Infantry Division known as “Operation Golden Pheasant”. We deployed from Travis Air force base in northern California and landed in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras in Central America. We quickly established a show of force and traveled south to the Nicaraguan boarder to help ease tensions between the Sandinista's and the Contra rebels.   After several weeks on the front lines of a civil war, hostilities came to a halt and a cease fire was initiated. It was then that I had an experience that completely changed my perspective on what it means to be born in America.
      The security of our perimeter was still enforced but we were not on high alert. The captain of our platoon gave my squad a rare opportunity to engage with the locals and to show goodwill. Our squad leader, Sergeant Powell, decided it would be an adventure to walk into town and meet some of them. It was a long dirt road from the out skirts where we were located but we could see the town as we were walking towards it. As we approached, there didn't seem to be any two story buildings except for, what looked like, the oldest church I had ever seen. We marched single file towards the town square. People started to gather around us as we got closer. Fortunately, we had one Spanish speaking soldier in our squad, Corporal Huerta.

Communication grew stronger. Curious and guarded expressions quickly turned to smiles and laughter. People there were poor yet happy and engaging. The entire day zoomed by and we wanted to stay but had to report back before nightfall. Upon our return...