In Italy with Andrew, Annie and Ender

Andrew; how I miss my son. Andrew, the perpetually happy boy who continually taught me lessons about forgiving and sharing.


The one person who could get his little brother Tim to do about anything during his petulant phases. Andrew, all grown up now and serving his country in the army. After 3 year-long deployments to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; he was now a father and assigned to Italy for 3 years with his good wife and little Ender who was born just a few months before they were deployed. Visiting Andrew and his family was the catalyst that spurred the visit to Europe.

My cuddle bear who is so respectful and strong and protective; I consider myself fortunate to have him as a son. And especially lucky to get to see him in conjunction with a visit to the historical landmarks and canonized art of the western world. Because he is in the military, as much as I would like to, for security reasons, I won’t be putting his photo on this blog.

But the best, most satisfying part of our month in Europe was the time spent with Andrew, Annie and Ender.  I cannot adequately express my gratitude for our military and first responders; especially those that are far from home.

On a day that Annie had to study, we invited Andrew and Ender to go with us on a train ride to Lucca.

The ancient walled city of Lucca, translation: Light.
Newell’s cousin author Larry McMurtry beat us to Italy!
Our granddaughters love this cartoon set in Paris, apparently Lucca’s girls like it too!
Lots of antique shops and a huge flea market – it was Sunday, so we just looked around.
A beautiful old church in Lucca.

American tourists do well to keep their presence understated, but a little personal expression can’t be helped.
I was happy to see plaid in Italy.
Lucca is known for bicycle paths on the exterior wall. This bike sported cute handmade baskets front and back.

We had seen Florence and Lucca and would soon go to Pisa. Newell had a flight home to get back to work in Salt Lake City and the flight was cancelled because of fog; Newell was sent to Rome to wait for the next flight. When Tim heard this, he hopped on a train and met his father in the Eternal City.

Tim and Newell toured Rome.

Tim had seen much of the art of Europe, castles, museums and cathedrals but what he saw at the Vatican blew him away.

Tim was impressed with the beauty of the art and architecture of the Vatican and Rome.

Ender had come down with a sore throat and wasn’t feeling well so I had stayed home to care for him. After a couple of days we bought him a gelato hoping it would feel good to his sore throat. He hadn’t eaten much and was having a hard time sleeping.

Andrew took Ender to an Italian pediatrician and I rode along. The medical interpreter met us to accompany Ender into the examination room; Ender had a sore throat and fever. The pediatrician was kind but did not swab his throat as is routine with American pediatricians. The doctor spoke no English and we were  not able to talk to her in Italian without the interpreter. He cried and we were glad to be finished and get him settled down. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic or medicine I didn’t recognize and an over-the-counter pain reliever, the clinic brought both meds to the exam room and the interpreter wrote the dosage directions down for us in English. Getting a 2 year-old with a sore throat to take oral meds is challenging at best; I was glad he didn’t have an allergic reaction – something we have experienced with other family members.

The reason I am writing this is that there is talk of a decision-maker in another country considering cutting the medical liason/interpreter program at Camp Darby to save money. This small base has very few services available to the families stationed there, with the next American military base being several hours away. To send American families overseas and not provide adequate medical care is potentially a serious problem. There is a campaign on requesting that the interpreter program be left in place; if you have a moment, we would appreciate your signing the petition, the link is below.

Ender after a faceplant on the rooftop playground of his home. Cute little guy, we want what’s best for him.

To the Command Teams of Regional Health Command Europe and Vicenza MEDCOM,

We, the undersigned members of the Darby Military Community (DMC), friends and family members of the DMC, and supporters from around the world urgently request MEDCOM leadership to reconsider the dissolution of services by the TRICARE POC and the three Host Nation Patient Liaisons. Camp Darby is home to over 400 Active Duty Service Members command sponsored family members. Additionally, our community supports a small Retiree population as well as the DoD civilians and contractors that support the DMC missions. The community depends on the services provided by Michelle Cyr, the TRICARE POC, and the Patient Liaisons, Micaela Ballucchi, Ilaria Guerrini, and Barbara Lama for host nation care coordination, language and document translation and navigation of the various facilities and providers within our host nation healthcare network.

Camp Darby does have a small Medical Aid Station staffed by two Active Duty U.S. Air Force Independent Medical Technicians available to provide limited care but to Active Duty only. For the rest of our community we rely entirely on the Italian healthcare system for all our medical needs.

We understand the proposed solution for the elimination of the liaisons is for those enrolled and eligible for TRICARE Prime Remote to rely on International SOS for all referrals, authorizations, appointment scheduling, medical document translation and telephonic language assistance. Unfortunately, communication and language assistance is not always readily accessible. Most areas within the hospital have dead spots, limited or spotty cell service and exam rooms with landlines that cannot dial to 800 or foreign numbers. Therefore, given these obstacles, ISOS is not an acceptable solution.

Not having reliable, clear, and consistent communication to bridge the language barrier puts our Soldiers, Airmen and their families at risk for a potential medical crisis. Many of the host nation providers currently used regularly by DMC patients have already begun to voice concern about seeing us in the absence of the liaison staff referencing legal liability and safety concerns. Our host nation providers deliver quality care but that care is only as good as it is understood. If we do not have the valuable and dedicated liaisons present to assist with the delivery of this quality care, treatments, procedures, and medication information is not going to fully be understood and therefore undermines the quality of that care.

The size of the Camp Darby Military may be small, but that fact should not be used to take away the basic necessity which is access to quality medical care. While this action may support budget cuts, it could very well endanger the lives of Soldiers, Airmen, DOD civilians, and their families.

Thank you.