By Carrie Rogers, Kentucky National
Guard Public Affairs Office
In the Army, a culinary specialist
is primarily responsible for preparing food in field or garrison operations.
For Spc. Jayendra Patel, learning this military occupational specialty became
an opportunity to do more than feed his fellow Guardsmen.
"Making sure my brothers and
sisters have the proper nourishment their bodies and minds need is a way for me
to serve others so we can all serve our country," said Patel.
Ultimately, service to others led
him to join the Kentucky Army National Guard, and it inspired his recent trip
In March, Patel received word that
his father had fallen ill. If he wanted to see him, he would need to take an
emergency trip home to Gandhinagar, the town where he was born. By then, the
COVID-19 pandemic already spanned the globe, but the American borders were yet
to be closed. He booked a flight and headed to his father's bedside.
Over the next few weeks, his
father's health improved, and the pandemic raged on. Nations shut their
borders, and businesses closed to slow the spread of the virus. India's prime
minister, Narendra Modi, performed the world's most extensive shutdown. He
ordered 1.3 billion Indians to stay home for 21 days.
While stuck in India for the shutdown, Patel found himself unfamiliarily idle and yearning to help others.
"For the first time, maybe
ever, I found myself with nothing to do but watch the news. I couldn't escape
the images of the millions of people all across India who were without work,
food, and clean water because of the shutdown."
The restrictions in India limited
where and when residents could venture outside the home. Limitations included
trips to retrieve essential supplies and left many without the resources they
needed to survive the pandemic.
"I spoke with my father, and I
asked, what would happen if I fed these people?" he recalled.
At first, his father was concerned
with his son bringing food to those less fortunate; the logistics of the effort
would violate several lockdown regulations.
Despite concerns, Patel accepted the
risk of potentially starting trouble with law enforcement.
"I knew I was risking our own
safety, but I couldn't sit by and watch people starve in the streets."
Patel served others precisely as
trained. He requested special permission to coordinate food, water, and
Reaching for their first goal to
feed 60 people, the group ended up feeding more than 100.
When others asked for food
assistance, he again answered the call, growing the operation to serve more
than 300 families. With just a little extra space on the terrace at his
family's home, he created a makeshift kitchen and then coordinated with others
to deliver hot meals to those needing it most.
"I was feeling down about being
stuck in India," said Patel. "My brothers and sisters in the Guard
were helping with COVID-19 efforts all across the country. When I talked with
my NCO about these feelings, he reminded me that living by the core Army Values
makes us the Soldiers we are, not our uniforms."
Out of uniform and away from his
teammates, Patel embodied the Army Values. Even while stuck halfway around the
world, he combined those values with a caring heart and a hot stove. He served
his neighbors as only he could during an ongoing worldwide crisis.
"If you don't do what you can't
do, that's no problem. But if you don't do what you can do, that is
tragic," added Patel.