Members of the U.S. Army’s 404th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne) and volunteers assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, visited Chebelley Village, Djibouti, May 21, 2015, to continue a tradition born from the memory of one soldier whose love for soccer has led to a world of giving.
This tradition, known as “Kick for Nick,” is a charity designed to provide soccer balls to children in underprivileged and impoverished areas in honor of U.S. Army Pvt. Nicholas Madaras, who was killed by a road side bomb in Iraq in 2006.
Madaras loved soccer and had collected hundreds of soccer balls to give to the children of Iraq, but he was killed before he could see his work done.
“Nick had a love for soccer and he really wanted to share his love of it all around the world, so that’s where the program came from,” said Capt. Serena Staples, 404th CA BN public health nurse. “We get soccer balls and jerseys and put his name on them to try to spread his love for soccer all around the world in honor of Nick. This shows that we are still remembering our fallen soldiers in a way that they want to be remembered, and with Nick’s passion for soccer, this is the ultimate way to spread his love.”
The 404th CA BN team received more than 40 soccer balls from the organization, donated by people all across the U.S., to distribute to the children of Chebelley, who swarmed the team as soon as they arrived.
“So often we see these children on the side of the road asking for things, and we can’t always give them something so it’s nice being able to give them something they love and to see them smiling and playing,” said Capt. Michael Silva, 404th CA BN dentist. “The American people need to know that they are making a difference through their donations even half a world away.”
The CA team is no stranger to the area, tasked with building and maintaining relationships throughout the region, the team repeatedly visits the community of Chebelley due to its proximity to CJTF-HOA.
Each month the team organizes a monthly soccer match between joint task force personnel and the community, and the team has helped with several community projects to include the health clinic that supports the village.
Considering the popularity of soccer and the fact that it can be played anywhere, the donated soccer balls are a perfect way to reach out to the children of the village and to continue to build the ongoing partnership between CJTF-HOA and the community of Chebelley, explained Staple.
“This is an awesome way to connect with the community and build relationships and show that we are out here to have fun and to care,” Staples said. “We want to have fun and interact with them and this is a great way to show that.”