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Reservist finds true meaning in Guatemala

Senior Master Sgt. Larry Gallo, 433rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, maintenance support section chief from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas poses with children in a village near San Raimundo, Guatemala. His job that day was to entertain the children with coloring while their parents are being seen by the medical staff. Gallo has been volunteering with T.I.M.E. for Christ Medical Ministries for seven years.

Senior Master Sgt. Larry Gallo, 433rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, maintenance support section chief from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas poses with children in a village near San Raimundo, Guatemala. His job that day was to entertain the children with coloring while their parents are being seen by the medical staff. Gallo has been volunteering with T.I.M.E. for Christ Medical Ministries for seven years.

Liesl Lawrence (background) a volunteer with T.I.M.E. for Christ Medical Ministries helps out in the children's ministry in the little town of San Raimundo Guatemala.

Liesl Lawrence (background) a volunteer with T.I.M.E. for Christ Medical Ministries helps out in the children's ministry in the little town of San Raimundo Guatemala.

In a village near San Raimundo Guatemala, physician assistant Paree Gallo (white coat) with T.I.M.E. for Christ Medical Ministries interviews a female patient with Juany Rodriguez (right) a translator.

In a village near San Raimundo Guatemala, physician assistant Paree Gallo (white coat) with T.I.M.E. for Christ Medical Ministries interviews a female patient with Juany Rodriguez (right) a translator.

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND -- While most American families spend their holidays gathered in their warm homes around a tree, opening presents and eating delicious food, one Air Force Reservist and his family have made their own unique holiday tradition of traveling abroad and providing medical and spiritual aid to impoverished individuals.

Senior Master Sgt. Larry Gallo, 433rd Logistics Readiness Squadron maintenance support section chief, his wife, Yvonne, and their daughters, Daizha and Paree, traveled to Guatemala Dec. 21 for nine days, as part of a humanitarian mission with T.I.M.E. for Christ Mexico Ministries.

"Seven years ago my family and I started giving up our commercial Christmases to do something different, since then, we never looked back," Gallo said. "These trips allow everyone to slow down and realize that some of the stress we put on ourselves is uncalled for once we put things in perspective.

"We have so much in the United States, and we are blessed as a nation. There is no guilt in being blessed. The guilt comes when we complain and grumble and take for granted the things we do have and not use those blessings to help others who are burdened."

During the nine-day trip, the team, which included two physician assistants, who are Gallo's daughters; two registered nurses, two dentists, a pastor, and a support crew. The team assisted more than 720 patients from three villages, San Raimundo, Guachipulin and El Chol located in mid-central Guatemala.

The team helped patients with lacerations, knee injections, wound cleaning, abscess removals and drains, stitches, scabies detoxing, ear washes, high blood pressure treatments, diabetes, and urinary tract infections.

Gallo, a native of Beaumont, Texas, added that during the family's trip in December 2013, the group also included a surgical team that performed hysterectomies, gallbladder surgeries, hernia surgeries and face tumor removals.

Gallo and his wife help in the non-medical areas such as administration or triage, and with the logistics of ordering supplies prior to the trips.

His daughter Daizha said the mission trips are what inspired her to pursue a career in the medical field."I initially decided to become a PA because I wanted to do medical missions," she said. "

"After I went on my first T.I.M.E. for Christ trip, I knew for sure that this was the career I wanted to pursue."

Daizha and her sister had gone on their first mission trip in the summer of 2007 before their parents attended. "By the end of that trip, we knew we wanted to go again on the Christmas trip and have our parents come with us," Daizha said, "... once we all went on our first Christmas trip in 2007, we knew we didn't want to spend our Christmases doing anything else."

Now a physician assistant in emergency medicine at Metropolitan Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Daizha is still inspired by that first mission trip.

"In those days, we would caravan to Mexico and set up a clinic and operating room inside a school," she said. On that first trip, Daizha recalled that, "There was an explosion of a fertilizer truck recently in a valley nearby the town of Nadadores, where we recently went that Christmas."

"Many of the people had lost their hearing due to burst eardrums, and many had shrapnel still in place from the explosion," she continued. "We had an (ear, nose, throat specialist) that year, who was able to help restore the hearing of many people by repairing their eardrums. The people at first didn't believe that we would come there to help them. By the end, they and the town government were so grateful that we had come."

In the family's most recent trip, Gallo recalled, his most memorable experience, attending to two ladies, of whom he thought at first were sisters. Because they were very close in age, one 76, and the other 88 years old, later he discovered that they were mother and daughter.

"They had walked a great distance and rode in a 'toot-toot' cab, a three-wheeled vehicle to get to the medical clinic," he said. "The mom limped and had a crutch. The mother was so chipper and tried conversing with me, but I understood only a portion of what she was saying with my very limited understanding of Spanish.

I worked triage that day, taking blood pressure and temperatures. The daughter's blood pressure was so high I kept getting an error on the automated cuff. I asked a medical student to try the manual cuff, and the readings were still off the charts."

"When the news was delivered to the mother and daughter that the daughter had congested heart failure, and she was about to die. Our camp pastor gave them both a message of hope, they left our hut very encouraged, hugging and kissing the hands and face of myself, the pastor and translator. I will never forget them. I just hope to be as brave as they are and to love even in times of dread."

While Gallo's family and everyone who attends the mission trips are volunteers, the travel costs and supplies are all donations. The 30-year Air Force veteran noted that members do fundraisers or let their mission committees of their local churches know what they are doing, and the committees provide financial assistance.

"Medicines are purchased beforehand from pharmaceutical companies by a doctor who sits on our executive board," he said. "Being a 43-year-old non-profit, the organization also receives financial donations."

"These trips are so wonderful and humbling," said Gallo. "To experience this as a family is better than any Christmas gift that can be purchased."

T.I.M.E. for Christ Mexico Ministries is a 501c3 non-profit organization. Gallo is the vice chairman of the organization, which has been providing humanitarian aid to Mexico since 1970 and Guatemala since 2011.