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La Feria Welcomes Operation Lone Star

Lt. Colonel Jason Horn, OIC, Missouri Air National Guard and Ian Arvizo, OIC, Texas Air Force State Guard of Corpus Christi, Texas. Photos: Bill Keltner/LFN

Weeklong Free Public Health Exercise

Story and photos by Bill Keltner/LFN

Citizen soldiers from the Texas State Guard and citizen airmen from the Missouri Air National Guard joined with Valley volunteers to provide one of the largest health public health exercises in the country. It happened last week at the La Feria High School Auditorium.

Claudia Soto, Public Information Officer for the La Feria Operation Lone Star 2017 said “this is the first time we are holding a full-scale emergency response exercise this large in Cameron County, and the first time outside Brownsville.” She added: “OLS provides a dispensing site and disaster recovery training while serving thousands of Texas residents in a real-life, real-time crisis scenario.”

“We chose La Feria this year,” the PIO said, “because of its location and the extraordinary cooperative spirit of the city administration, including the Mayor and City Secretary, along with the school administration.” In addition to serving as Information Officer, Soto has been with the Cameron County health department for eighteen years and serves as Interim Assistant WIC Director for the county.

Lt. Colonel Jason Horn, Officer-in-Charge of the 39 volunteer members of the Missouri Air Force National Guard said, “The main reason we came for the disaster recovery exercise was to give our troops practical hands-on training in case of any emergency,” adding: “We don’t have hurricanes in Missouri, but we get our share of tornados, storms and massive flooding every year–this training really helps.”

Claudia Soto, PIO Operation La Feria OLS with volunteer Missouri doctor, Mickey Yang, MD.

Operation Lone Star 2017 is a project of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Officer Soto explained the additional benefit to the community of these free annual health services to our community. She said, “This event helps all people, young and old, to have access to free medical care and attention. For many underserved residents, this is the only time they get to visit with a doctor.”

The services provided included general medical checkups, blood pressure checks, immunizations, Diabetes screening, and medical evaluations including sports physicals for students. The services even included hearing and vision exams, as well as dental services–all at no cost. This marks the eighteenth consecutive year that Texas residents have benefited from the free medical services provided by Operation Lone Star..

One final question, Claudia: Who got the ball rolling to have it in La Feria this year?

“It happened this way,” she said: “It was through the efforts of County Commissioner Gus Ruiz. Someone made the suggestion to have it in La Feria this year, and he said: ‘Why not’ and the project got underway.”

Disasters don’t discriminate, and because of efforts like OLS, Texas stands ready to face any emergency, before, during, and after it happens.

Welcome to La Feria, folks: Let’s make it a habit.

Claudia Soto, PIO Operation Lone Star 2017, and Marco A Lozano, MBA-CHEP, Healthcare Preparedness Director for the Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services.

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