As a soldier in Panama, I served with a Staff Sergeant from the Island of Samoa, a stout man with a big smile. Throughout all the miles walked and years in Panama, I cannot recall seeing any food growing in the jungle. During our jungle “missions”, we would stop periodically, and noticed the Staff Sergeant disappearing for a little while and returning with bananas, mangos, cocoa and other edible treasures.

Other times, we would be deep in the jungle, far from a road or trail, and along would come two Panamanian locals with a bag full of iced down sodas. Seriously, we were so hot and these youngsters would have ice that had barely begun to melt. Needless to say, we bought all they had, and would have paid dearly for them, but they only charged a buck a bottle.

In Honduras, I had an opportunity to serve as a forward observer with a company of soldiers in the Honduran Army. At some point during the day, family members of the soldiers would just show up at our site….with what? Food! Awesome biscuits and bread with amazing sweet butter. I still don’t know exactly what it was, but I have never had the same again. As good as the food was, the best memories are of sharing laughs and trying out new recipes throughout our stay.

While stationed in Panama, most of the bananas I enjoyed were grown locally. At one point, I even had a bunch growing in my housing area. It was not until I returned to the U.S. that I noticed the subtle differences in bananas and started looking at what country the bananas were from. Many were from Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras and PANAMA – those hold a special excitement for me. Every morning I get to take a trip to Central America and experience some the fond memories of my early days.

See, bananas are bananas, all over the world. No matter where planted, grown and raised, it is a banana. But if you take the time you will notice the small unique differences that make each one special. They differ by level of ripeness or age, size and culture. They take on the flavor of the earth locally, yet are also impacted by the environment. Pests or pesticides, amounts of rain or sunlight – all these factors can impact the final banana product.

Sounds a lot like people. That is why I love Veterans. We come from all over the world, the U.S., north and south, east and west and right in the middle. The military taught me one thing I am most grateful for and that is the power of teamwork and family. Although we all have our unique differences that make us who we are, we are the same, all soldier, all humans, and all bananas.

And that is why VA is a great place to work and serve Veterans. Not only are our patients as diverse as the world, but so are our employees. Working together to care for our Nation’s Veterans is one of the most rewarding and educational experiences most people will enjoy.

Learn more about a career at VA and start your journey around the “world”. Apply TODAY!

Darren SherrardIn May 2008, Darren Sherrard was appointed as the Associate Director of Healthcare Recruitment and Marketing (HRM) at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Workforce Management and Consulting office (WMC).

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Published on Jul. 22, 2015

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