Heart to Heart International presented the Power of One award May 9, 2015 at the Compassion Gala to U.S. Army Major General Gary Volesky for leading the charge in the fight against Ebola in Liberia.
Major General Gary Volesky is the commander of the 101st Airborne Division and was named the overall military commander of Operation United Assistance – the U.S. government’s response to the Ebola epidemic in Liberia – in the Fall of 2014. During the next few months, Volesky led U.S. troops into every corner of Liberia to build Ebola Treatment Units, establish field laboratories, and to provide logistical and operational support. The video above introduced Major General Volesky as the winner of the Power of One award at the Compassion Gala.
Volesky was unable to attend the Gala to receive the Power of One award, however he accepted the honor in a video message on behalf of all U.S. military and Department of Defense personnel who were involved in the effort to end the epidemic in West Africa.
U.S. Army First Lieutenant Nate Zimmerly attended the Gala to represent the U.S. military and its role in the Ebola fight, and to physically accept the Power of One award. Serving as liason between aid groups like HHI and the military, Zimmerly’s primary role in Liberia was overseeing the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) and the planning, design, and construction of 12 Ebola Treatment Units, including the ETU that Heart to Heart International operated in Tappita, Liberia.
1st Lt. Nate Zimmerly addressing attendees of the Compassion Gala in Kansas City, accepting the Power of One award on behalf of Major General Volesky.
1st Lt. Nate Zimmerly accepting the Power of One award from HHI CEO Jim Mitchum (r) and Dr. George Poehlman.
U.S. Senator Chris Coons is the first member of Congress to travel to Liberia since the start of the Ebola outbreak. During his four day trip, he visited with deployed American troops, met with Liberian political leaders and explored Heart to Heart International’s new Ebola Treatment Unit in the town of Tappita.
HHI’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rene Vega (center, in blue) escorts Senator Coons and Ambassador Deborah Malec, along with Liberian health and government officials, on a tour of the Tappita ETU.
Senator Coons of Delaware currently chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs. He said his trip to Liberia was partly to remind Americans that the Ebola epidemic is far from over, to make a holiday visit with the troops and to provide some oversight of the funds committed to fighting Ebola.
Coons: “There are more than 2,000 U.S. troops currently serving on the front lines of our fight against Ebola, building hospitals and field clinics, but no Member of Congress has visited them yet. I think it’s important to show them our support, especially during the holiday season while they’re away from their loved ones. Congress also just approved more than $2.5 billion in emergency funding to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa, and to ensure the virus does not overrun the region again. It’s Congress’ job to perform responsible oversight of that investment.”
Accompanying the senator on the tour of HHI’s Ebola Treatment Unit was US Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac and Major General Gary Volesky, commander of the 101st Airborne and overall commander of US troops in Liberia. Maj. Gen. Volesky had been to the Tappita site previously, as construction for the ETU was managed by the 36th Engineer Brigade, from Fort Hood, Texas.
As the Huffington Post reported, Coons said he took plenty of precautions to avoid contracting the disease. “Every place I’ve gone I’m washing my hands with chlorine. Instead of handshakes we’re doing the ‘elboa,'” he said, referring to bumping elbows. Though the trip was considered a ‘low-risk’ visit the senator will follow protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control, his health will be monitored and his temperature taken every day for three weeks as a precaution.
Coons also told the Washington Post he had seen first-hand how international groups, like Heart to Heart International, along with local Liberian efforts had changed the trajectory of the epidemic in the country.