Guam Guardsman connects underserved to healthcare with cultural ambassadorship


U.S. Army Spc Peter Raymond of the Guam National Guard visits the Gill-Baza Subdivision of Yigo, Guam during Operation Homebound Mar. 10, 2023. (Mark Scott/GUNG)

YIGO, Guam—“Are we going in here? Yup, we’re going in here,” our driver narrates, as the small convoy of compact SUVs from the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services turns off-road.

“Welcome to the Gill-Breeze Subdivision.”

The crew of four Public Health employees and two Guam National Guardsmen are part of Operation Homebound, an outreach program conceived during the COVID-19 Pandemic to connect Guam’s underserved communities with social services, Medicare and Medicaid enrollment, COVID tests and vaccinations, and more.

With no running water or sewage, the Gill-Breeze Subdivision in northern Guam qualifies as underserved. Many of the homes are open-air structures made of wood and tin. Residents must haul water or use homemade catchment systems for drinking, cooking, bathing, and makeshift outhouses. Many of these residents hail from the Federated States of Micronesia, with barriers in language and culture further widening the gap to healthcare access.

Barriers that the team from DPHSS and the Guam Guard are here to crush.

U.S. Army Spc Peter Raymond of the Guam National Guard, center, signs up Rachel Bessy, right, for her COVID-19 booster during Operation Homebound in Sinajana, Guam Mar. 10, 2023. (Mark Scott/GUNG)


U.S. Army Spc Peter Raymond of the Guam National Guard visits a family during Operation Homebound in Yigo, Guam Mar. 10, 2023. (Mark Scott/GUNG)

Spc Peter Raymond, infantryman for Ayuyu Company, 1-294th Infantry Regiment, Guam National Guard, steps down with his clipboard and gets to work. Raymond is a native of Chuuk, one of four states that make up the FSM along with Pohnpei, Kosrae, and Yap. With Julita Samuel, community program assistant from DPHSS taking lead, Raymond approaches a nearby family.

“Rannalem,” says Raymond, a traditional Chuukese greeting. The family smiles but says they’re busy planning a Christian rosary and to come back later.

So the convoy moves on, as they have for almost one year.

Throughout the day, we visit underserved families across the island. Some are new patients, and some are scheduled to receive subsequent doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Families gather at our stops to speak with Raymond and Samuel and sign up for public health services. One family rallies others nearby to come and get vaccinated. At the end of the day, the team has educated over 20 people, and vaccinated over a dozen more.

Operation Homebound has connected hundreds of residents to public health resources, according to DPHSS.

Raymond is proud of the work he’s done but gives credit to those who have gone before him. “I have to thank Sgt. Lori Chugrad and Spc Salafan Kachuo for being the original members of this mission and encouraging me.” He was also thankful for the partnership of the DPHSS, who treated him like family.

Raymond declined an interview for this article, opting to give a simple quote. “I’m just glad to do anything I can do to help,” said Raymond.


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