TACLOBAN, Philippines – Pacific Partnership member meets her mother and siblings for the first time in five years in Tacloban on Pacific Partnership 2014 (PP14), July 11.
“I am excited and nervous all at the same time,” said Yeoman 2nd Class Hannah Herrera, assigned to Helicopter Maritime Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21. “It has been a long time since we last saw each other.”
Herrera hasn’t seen her family since 2009 when her mother left the United States to take care of her grandmother. Her grandmother lived in Mindanao, which is a restricted area for members of the U.S. military.
“I was 20 years old when my mother left the states,” said Herrera. “I never thought I would ever see my mother on a Navy deployment. This is a great surprise. I wasn’t even expecting to pass by the Philippines.”
Herrera said she was very happy when her command told her she would be participating in PP14. She is fluent in Tagalog and is a translator assisting the medical staff during engagements in Tacloban.
“This is the most Tagalog I have spoke in ages,” said Herrera. “I left the Philippines when I was 12-years-old and a lot has changed since then. I know that when I see my mother’s face it will all be familiar again.”
The longest Herrera and her mother have been separated before this was when she was in Navy bootcamp. When her mother saw her at graduation day, she cried hysterically Herrera recalls.
“It just has been too long and I am just so happy to finally see her,” said Herrera. “She is so proud of what Pacific Partnership is doing out here and she is very proud that I am in the service. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I am so grateful for.”
At one o’clock, Herrera’s mother landed at the Tacloban City Airport along with her brother and two sisters. They were finally reunited after five years.
“I don’t know the feeling,” said Teresita Herrera, Hannah’s mother. “I am really happy to see her. She is so grown up. I am really proud that she is a part of this big job in Tacloban. She is a super girl to me.”
Pacific Partnership is in its ninth iteration and is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Asia-Pacific region.