SAN JUAN - Over 700 military, state, and county employee volunteers gave their time to serve the community during the 21st Annual Operation Lone Star in the Rio Grande Valley held July 22-26, 2019.

OLS is a full-scale emergency exercise uniting federal, state and local health and human service agencies. It is one of the largest public health exercises in the country, serving as a dispensing site and disaster recovery training while serving thousands of Texas residents in real-life, real-time crisis scenarios.

“Operation Lone Star would not be possible without hundreds of dedicated volunteers who give up their time to come serve the community,” said PSJA Health Services Director Sulema Solis who served as Incident Commander for the PSJA Early College High School site. “I would also like to commend our PSJA employees including our Custodians, Security Guards, Parent Educators and my Incident Command Staff for their work.”

Medical services provided each year during Operation Lone Star include immunizations for all ages; blood pressure checks; diabetes screenings; hearing and vision exams; sports physicals; dental services; vision exams and mobile lab to make prescription glasses.

Each year, more than 300 military staff members and over 200 state and county employees and countless volunteers give their time and talents to make OLS a reality. Thanks to the Operation, over 43,000 public health services are provided each year across six medical point of dispensing (MPOD) sites located in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Web Counties.

Among the agencies who volunteered this year include: Remote Area Medical; Texas State Health Services; US Department of Public Health; Hidalgo County Health & Human Services; Texas A&M College of Nursing; Texas State Guard; Texas A&M Science Center; South Texas Vocational Institute; RGV College; University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine; University of Incarnate Work and University of Houston, to name a few. PSJA ISD staff from Health Services, Parental Engagement, Communications, MIS, Safety, Child Nutrition and Maintenance also assisted.

In addition to those agencies helping to provide medical and social services, seven local dentists also volunteered during the week. Dentists included: Dr. Carlos Cruz; Dr. Omel Cardenas; Dr. Samantha Champion; Dr. Nicholas Quach; Dr. Daniel Lee; Dr. Anthony Vu; and Dr. Anthony Vu.

“Thank you for allowing us to give back,” said Dr. Carlos Cruz who owns Oral & Cranial Facial Surgery in Edinburg. “As health care workers we have to have compassion. To give to your community is the most important thing to do. This is something beautiful, I encourage more professionals to participate.”

Like the other local dentists, Dr. Cruz closed his dental practice for at least an entire day this week to serve his community.

According to the Incident Commander the annual full-scale emergency preparedness exercise would not be possible without generous individuals who give back.

“Our PSJA Family and everyone in this operation is grateful to all the local dentists and medical volunteers who take the time to treat thousands of individuals in our community,” said Solis. “Their dedication and compassion truly makes a difference in the lives of our families.”

Individuals interested in volunteering next year can contact the Hidalgo County Health & Services Department at 956-318-2426.