Sioux City veteran recalls ‘nation building’ during service

Veterans Voices

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – A colonel from Sioux City set off to change the lives of many as he spent decades in the United States Army and National Guard.

Colonel John Mansfield says the army’s motto is “We will defend,” and his mission in the infantry was to “destroy the enemy.” However, he said what he did in Guatemala shows the other side of what the Army represents.

Mansfield joined the U.S. Army in 1966. It was the beginning of three decades he’d go on to serve.

“Toward the end of that 31st year, one of the exercises that I was recalled active duty to work on was 95 norte and joint task force timber wolves,” Mansfield said.

Mansfield was off to Guatemala. For the next year, he and his fellow troops would build a whole new town from scratch.

“We had 700 pieces of equipment that we sent down there. Loaded on rail carts went on to what they call roll-on ship. Loaded everything up,” Mansfield said.

They first started with water.

“They didn’t have a electricity in a lot of these villages, so we put in manual water pumps. So we drilled water wells. They didn’t have water wells. They would get their water from a creek or from the river.”

Water wells were only the beginning. Mansfield’s unit built two clinics, remodeled three schools, and built three new bridges. They also brought 7,500 pairs of glasses for the community, something Mansfield said was the moment he’ll always remember.

“These ladies walked out and they had huge smiles on their faces,” Mansfield said. “What she said was, ‘I can see the trees on the mountains now.’ And that still gets to me now because all three of them could now see. Could you imagine that?”

Mansfield said he felt privileged to be in a position to help others, and he would do it again if given the chance.

“God won’t ask you for more than you’re able and capable of giving, and maybe God was asking — the people to give and we could. So, it means a lot that we could help others,” Mansfield said.

Mansfield says the Army represents ‘nation building’ which is helping those in need. And, decades later, he tells me he’s still thankful he was able to help people prosper, all while serving his country.

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