Heeding the call of service: An Army reservist story

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“This calamity, while unfortunate, has given us the opportunity to see how truly dedicated Army reservists are. Their passion to serve and wear the uniform with pride as they tirelessly execute their tasking continues to shine as they consistently report for duty even as we enter our 10th day of HADR operations. These are the men and women we want in the Army Reserve Force.” –

LTC JANNETTE CHAVEZ ARCEO, MNSA (GSC) PA (RES), COMMANDING OFFICER, 403RD RRIBN

Driven by compassion and kindness, Corporal Diosdado Gornez joined the 36 reservists who served as first responders to families affected when Taal Volcano spewed ash and steam on January 13, a day after the volcano erupted and inflicted significant damages to nearby provinces. The troop was deployed to Poblacion 3 Command Post in Sto. Tomas, Batangas to assist in unloading and distribution of relief goods to the evacuees. They also helped the residents assembled in the evacuation centers in distributing foods and drinks. “Binabantayan po namin ‘yung mga tao na huwag lumabas sa building dahil kasalukuyan pang umuusok at bumubuga ng abo ang bulkan. Amin din pong pinapapasok ang mga taong wala pa sa building,” (We guide people outside to go inside the building. We also make sure that people do not go out of the building because the volcano still spews ash and steam.) recalled Cpl Gornez. “Nag-unload po kami ng goods mula sa mga sasakyan na nag-deliver. Pinadala po kami doon to save lives.” (We unload the relief goods delivered by trucks. We are there to save lives.)

Corporal Gornez is a reservist of Alpha Company, 403rd Ready Reserve Infantry Battalion (403rd RRIBn) under the command of Cpt. Gerson D Rovira (Res) PA. He was sent back to his original station in San Pablo Central School Evacuation Center, Laguna after one-day deployment in Sto. Tomas, Batangas on January 13. Since then, he, together with his companions, has been consistently reporting until now to cater to 106 families (513 evacuees) from Batangas who are temporarily residing in the evacuation center. Corporal Gornez hails from Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte but migrated in Alaminos, Laguna in 1996 and later established a family. He got married and blessed with three children. That same year, having that ardent desire to serve, he decided to apply as reservist and was enlisted in the reserve force. This occurred when his neighbor, who is also a reservist, invited him to enlist. He has been a reservist for 23 years now.

Because of an innate desire to serve his fellowmen, he quit his job as a security guard to become a full time reservist. He recounted that being a security guard will hinder his chances to attend the schooling and training provided by Army Reserve Command (ARESCOM). This also prevented him to join on the different humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations. To provide a steady income for his family, he put a sari-sari store instead.

On applying as a reservist, he was actually discouraged by his neighbors to join the reserve force. According to them, he can serve other people without enlisting in the reserve force by being a Barangay Tanod, health or a traffic volunteer of the barangay. But he thought to himself that being a man in uniform of the Armed Forces; he can develop discipline and gain higher respect from people. Besides, soldiers seen and regarded as disciplined individuals inspire him. Besides, in times of war, he is ready to offer his life for the country and get the chance to defend the land. He is also fully equipped in terms of schooling and unit active duty training since 2000 provided by the battalion for disaster response during calamity.

His primary motivation is to help other people, despite that he lives as an ordinary family man. Despite of sleepless nights, tiredness and hunger, he is not willing to give up because what he is doing is for the people, to help them in time of need. He only thinks of what he can contribute and the difficulties he is facing are nothing compared to people whose lives are in danger. His heart is touched with the event and the situation of the evacuees hoping that they can already go back to their homes and start anew. Aside from unloading and loading of relief operations to nearby barangays and evacuation centers, Corporal Gornez and other three reservists also repack relief goods and provide security to the area, roving the vicinity during the night. With the four of them assigned on duty, only Cpl Gornez is full time because the three companions have work during the day. They also talk to the evacuees and befriend them so that they won’t feel they are being held inside the camp.

His FB post summarizes his passion and concern for others:

“Kahit puyat, pagod, masarap sa pakiramdam ang makapaglingkod sa bayan. Masaya ang ating loob na nakakatulong tayo sa kapwa natin Pilipino na nasa panganib at gipit na kalagayan. Patnubayan nawa tayo lagi ng Panginoon sa ating ginagawang pagtulong sa ating kapwa tao.”

Corporal Diosdado Gornez, Army Reservist

In her statement appreciating her troops, 403rd RRIBn Commanding Officer, LTC Jannette C Arceo, MNSA (GSC) PA (RES) said reservists, like Corporal Gornez, are the ones she is deeply grateful to have in the organization. Further, she recalled that they quietly work hard, respect the chain of command, and are truly committed to providing service when called upon. Indeed, the eruption of Taal Volcano did not deter the hearts of Army reservists like Corporal Gornez to cultivate the spirit of compassion and commitment to help others who are in time of need. This calamity will only present the opportunity to showcase the dedication and joy in serving that characterize a true Filipino.