Cuero, Texas: Cuero Regional Hospital recently celebrated the return of EMS team member Michael Varela from overseas deployment. Mortar Section Sgt. Michael Varela returned from active duty in Africa with the U.S. Army National Guard on Saturday, March 30 and a reception was held in his honor on Wednesday, April 3 in the front lobby of Cuero Regional Hospital. The internal CRH employee committee CHAMPS organized the event after learning of Michael Varela’s return from being deployed in Africa since June 26, 2018. Varela has worked with Cuero EMS since November 2017.
Cuero Health staff, as well as Varela's family, and Cuero city leaders were on hand to celebrate his return with a cake, cookie and punch reception. Varela was presented with a gift basket filled with donations from CRH, as well as community members. During the reception both staff and community members thanked Varela for his contributions and sacrifice for serving his country for the past year.
“I look forward to getting back to work with my Cuero Regional Hospital EMS team and helping this community that I love,” Varela said. “The Cuero EMS family has supported not only myself by sending a huge care package (supported as well by hospital staff and doctors), but never hesitated to take care of the family I left behind. I look forward to the dynamic environment that keeps me driving on with this career field. It keeps me on my toes and never gets boring!”
Of those in attendance, Varela shared, "A lot of these people are the ones that were there for me and my family whenever we had time of need. They weren't great needs, but there were events that I couldn't be there for. And, to have them welcome me home, open their arms, and accept me back into their lives, it's been amazing."
Varela learned many lessons while away, mainly realizing the importance of family. “Family is so important and you never know what you are missing till they are gone. Never take anything for granted and remember where you come from,” Varela shared.
At the end of May, Varela will have 16 years of service with the U.S. Army National Guard. “I enlisted on May 30, 2003 as a 19D (Cavalry Scout), performing a scout element for four years. In 2007, I attended 11B (Infantry) MOSQ (Military Occupation Specialty Qualification) school. After about four years of working as an infantryman, I was offered the opportunity to attend 11C (Indirect Fire Infantryman or Mortarman) MOS and have been doing that for about 8 years now,” Varela said.
Varela’s love for emergency medicine started when he attended a Combat Lifesaver Course during his 2005 deployment and, “that was just the tip of the iceberg,” said Varela. “In 2012 I attended firefighting school which also required EMT school. I noticed that medical was something that I was really interested in and ultimately went to Paramedic School and found my groove,” Varela shared.
When asked what a typical day of service looked like, Varela responded, “Due to an 8 hour time difference I would start my day by waking up at 0400 (my time) to call home and talk to the family about their day (2000 their time), Shifts started at 0600 and ran for 12 hours. As the section sergeant, I ensured that all my equipment was operational in order for us to fire missions if necessary. Also, we were tasked with escorting different local nationals around camp and ensuring they made it from entry point to their work destination. During our time there, we performed 823 escorts and had 57 life fire events. Also, during my work day, different training events would be conducted by me or other entities in the area. At 1300, I would also call home and tell everyone good morning and ensure that there was nothing that needed to be addressed while family was busy with other things. At the end of my day, I would conduct personal hygiene and relax with my soldiers,” Varela said.
Varela credits his wife and friends for keeping family life running smoothly in his absence, “My wife is an amazing woman and did a good majority on her own. Balancing three boys, keeping up a house, bills, bring a full-time graduate student with a 4.0 GPA, and working as a full-time Special Education teacher. But, when it came to asking to help there are a few people that I have to recognize. First would be Jeremy Winton, who volunteered to help with the yard work when he could and dropped everything when asked for help. Laura Herrera who ran to get flowers for my wife and never turned the opportunity down. Daniel Vahalik who happily watched my boys while my wife worked and we couldn’t find someone to watch them. These individuals went above and beyond to help my family and me out,” Varela said.
Staying connected to family while serving overseas was critical to Varela. “We were very fortunate to have a base that had multiple hotspots,” Varela said. “I was able to utilize my phone for Facebook Messenger calls, Facetime with my son who had an iPad, voice calls with family and also moral calls that had an operator connect with people for free This is a completely different time than when I was deployed in 2005 with limited capabilities!”
For those that follow Varela on social media, many were drawn to the story of Bronte, the stuffed bright green dinosaur that followed Varela on his many adventures overseas. “This was my first overseas deployment with my boys, so Kimberly (my wife) and I thought it would be cool for them to see Bronte do things with dad. So, everywhere I went, Bronte would also go! Bronte only wanted to show up for the cool events though, not when all the heavy work was happening. Bronte was a celebrity though. Bronte was known all over camp. He was offered opportunities to participate in many events, such as rifle ranges, mortar ranges, working with PJs, riding in helicopters, and meeting the new guys that ultimately replaced me. And, if Bronte wasn’t nearby everyone asked where he was!” Varela shared on Bronte, the stuffed dinosaur.
Varela will return to his position as paramedic with Cuero Regional Hospital EMS mid-April. While he’s eager to return to work, he is enjoying this time off with family and friends, mainly outdoor things, eating homemade food, BBQing and being outdoors he said. “Our family loves to hike and explore the great outdoors, so we plan on enjoying adventures outdoors and educational trips to learn new things and expand our knowledge,” said Varela.
“I look forward to getting back to work with my Cuero Regional Hospital EMS team and helping this community that I love. The Cuero EMS family that we have here has supported not only myself by sending a huge care package (supported by other hospital staff and doctors), but never hesitated to take care of the family that I left behind. I look forward to the dynamic environment that keeps me driving on with this career field. It keeps me on my toes and never gets boring, Varela shared.
For more information about Cuero Regional Hospital, please visit www.cuerohospital.org. Cuero Regional Hospital is located at 2550 N. Esplanade in Cuero, Texas and offers an ED- Level IV Trauma Center, on-staff General Surgeon, and a TeleStroke program. For more information, please visit www.cuerohospital.org or call (361) 275-6191.