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Air Force Featured Stories

Sergeant helps others in India

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Amber Carter
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
(This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

"From across the room, I watched a man, who had lost his left foot, crawl to the water station," said Staff Sgt. Alexander Cedillo from Travis Air Force Base. "He could've asked me to get it for him but he didn't. Instead, with great difficulty, he made it back to his bed and then handed that cup to the man in the bunk next to him because he could not move on his own."

Cedillo, a 60th Logistics Readiness Squadron day-shift supervisor, witnessed this during a trip to Kolkata, India, where he found peace and answered a calling. In February, he used 30 days of leave to volunteer at a hospice house and a home for the mentally challenged.

Back in 2010, Cedillo flew to the U.S. from the Philippines after his parents waited 25 years for a petition, a document allowing immigration, from his aunt to be approved.

"I only had my mom, dad and two suitcases when I arrived," Cedillo said. "I joined the Air Force a year after I got here."

Since joining, the Air Force has enhanced his passion for serving others which is demonstrated through his leadership.

"Even to my Airmen, I am a servant leader," Cedillo said. "I give them their initial evaluation, tell them what I expect and then supply them with the tools they need to achieve those goals."

Cedillo's leadership has noticed his commitment to the core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.

"Staff Sgt. Cedillo has one of the firmest moral compasses that I have ever encountered," said 2nd Lt. Thomas O'Neal, the 60th LRS materiel management flight commander. "He sets the example for others to follow and that is what makes him a leader."

After an internet search of volunteer opportunities, Cedillo found a charity organization he wanted to support and began researching a trip to India.

"The hardest part was booking the ticket because there are a lot of forms to fill out before you can get approval to go, especially since certain parts of India are off-limits to Airmen," he said. "I've never been to India and I don't know anyone who has been to India. All I had to rely on was the information from the Internet. It was a leap of faith."

He arrived in Kolkata on Feb. 1, and while there, he discovered the true meaning of service to others.

"You show up to orientation with your passport and the next day you begin volunteering," Cedillo said. "You don't have to be of a certain faith to serve. The people serving there were from all over the world."

Volunteers did everything including bathing, feeding, changing bandages and assisting with the needs of the people, he said.

His face, although somber, lit up as he spoke of his experiences as a volunteer.

"I helped a man with a big wound on his leg," Cedillo said. "The smell of his flesh was unlike anything I had ever smelled before. This man, in particular, touched my heart because we were looking at each other eye to eye and I told him 'It's OK. You'll be fine. Jesus loves you and we are going to take care of you.'"

Cedillo faced a multitude of challenges while volunteering at the houses for the sick and the dying.

"We don't know what kind of sicknesses the people there have," Cedillo said. "We just help them, talk to them, pray for them and take care of them. Even with a language barrier, they were able to understand we had traveled from all around the world to care for them."

Volunteering in another country brings a fresh perspective to day-to-day life as a leader in the Air Force.

"I was humbled by serving in India," Cedillo said. "As you gain rank (in the Air Force), you gain more responsibilities and it can become more about paperwork. I realized that working with my Airmen and doing the hands-on things that they do is leading by setting an example and practicing humility."

In an all-volunteer military, every Airman practices serving others and service before self every day.

"Don't be afraid to volunteer, step out of your comfort zone and aim high," Cedillo said. "I learned so much from the people in India. I thought I was going on this trip to give and show love to people in need. When I left, I was the one who received joy, love and peace in my heart."

Reflecting on his experiences, he noted that poverty has a way of unifying people. People can get buried in their life with kids, family and work schedules but if you want to serve others, it could be as simple as getting someone a cup of water.