67 minutes: US, South African troops perform community service on Nelson Mandela day

U.S. Army Africa Soldiers, troops from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and service members from the South African National Defense Force celebrated Nelson Mandela International Day 2017 by partnering with a local South African animal shelter to provide free exams and medical treatment for Postmasburg pets July 18.



By Sgt. 1st Class Alexandra Hays U.S. Army Africa Postmasburg, South Africa Jul 26, 2017
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POSTMASBURG, South Africa — U.S. Army Africa Soldiers, troops from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and service members from the South African National Defense Force celebrated Nelson Mandela International Day 2017 by partnering with a local South African animal shelter to provide free exams and medical treatment for Postmasburg pets July 18.

The troops, who are training together during Exercise Shared Accord 2017, took time to observe Nelson Mandela International Day— a tradition first recognized in 2009 by the United Nations General Assembly in recognition of Mandela’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.

“As part of Nelson Mandela day, we came out to kind of engage the community and give back to the community,” said Brig. Gen. William J. Prendergast IV, the USARAF deputy commanding general.

“It’s just great to see other cultures and make that bond between two nations,” Prendergast said, adding that the U.S. Army is committed to strengthening its relationship with regional and national African partners.

U.S. and South African troops collaborated with local animal shelter, Diere Forum Postmasburg, and set up a free, outdoor dog clinic for residents living in the shacks of Postmasburg. Residents lined up for their dogs to receive free vaccinations, flea treatments and de-worming medicine.

Service members from both countries donned medical gloves and assisted the shelter workers with the pets and interacted with residents.

“I think it was great because we don’t get to do that stuff often,” said Army Spc. Gladys Y. Gilbert Brea, a cook with the 101st AD, originally from Gautier, Miss. “It was heartwarming — I love animals.”

Mandela Day is observed each year on July 18, the late statesman’s birthday, and it calls on all citizens to volunteer 67 minutes of their time to commemorate Mandela’s 67 years of promoting social justice. Mandela’s legacy includes working as a human rights lawyer, an international peacemaker, and the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

This year, according to the United Nations website, the theme for Mandela Day was “Action Against Poverty,” acknowledging Mandela’s devotion to fighting poverty.

“We need to make a difference in what we’re doing in our communities,” said South African Defense Force Col. William Bucibe, a senior staff officer.

“We are here as an organization to give back to the community. We must do good wherever we are so we can make this a better world,” he said.

Prendergast echoed the sentiment that showing communities support is important.

“It’s community relations, and Shared Accord ‘17 is really a great opportunity for us to continue to build partnerships with our African partners.”

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