JOINT BASE McGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Soldiers serve their country every day. But a photo posted on social media March 3, of an anonymous First Army Soldier giving pizza to the homeless highlighted this commitment at the community level.
The photo was widely shared on social media and generated thousands of hits and hundreds of positive comments in just a couple of days.
The Soldier in the picture is Cpl. Derno McCary, an observer-coach/trainer with 2-312th Regiment, 174th Infantry Brigade, Division East. The photo was taken by another 2-312th observer-coach/trainer, Sgt. Richard Saenz, when the two Soldiers volunteered their off-duty time to hand out dozens of pizzas to homeless people in Camden, N.J., March 2.
The pizza delivery was Saenz's idea, according to McCary.
"I told him I would definitely go with him," McCary said. "The reception that we got was outstanding, but I was just doing my part. It felt good."
Saenz, who grew up in Camden, witnessed the hardships these people experience while working as a state employee in the city. Years later, seeing a friend helping those in need motivated Saenz to find ways that he, too, could give back and make a difference. He organized the pizza delivery with considerable donations and support from his unit.
"It was fun to do, watching people's faces light up," Saenz said. "People would tell me that they hadn't had pizza in years."
Saenz and his team leader, Sgt. 1st Class Randall Nieves, made another night-time food delivery to homeless compounds in Camden, March 5, handing out boxes of fruit and dozens of loaves of bread to grateful recipients.
Despite the cold, several people came out of their snow-covered, makeshift shelters to greet the Soldiers and thank them for their service.
"What (a Soldier) does reflects greatly on the Army, so when Sgt. Saenz came up with this idea, our whole team supported him," Nieves said. "There are things here we can do. We need to help people here."
Saenz and the 2-312th team hope to continue making deliveries. Friends and relatives of Soldiers in the unit have offered to contribute money and supplies to aid in their efforts.
"You've always got to try to do something to make people feel better," Saenz said. "That is part of a philosophy I have been trying to work on."
Saenz said he posted the picture of McCary online because of the way his friend inspired him to help.
"I didn't want any recognition. I just wanted to pay it forward," Saenz said. "Hopefully somebody else will want to do something to help."