By Vella G. Mbenna
Retired U S Diplomat
May 29, 2020
As a retired member of the United States Foreign Service, I was proud to represent American interests and values in 13 countries over my 26 and 1/2 years of service. I write this as Foreign Service Day approaches on May 1, intended to honor our active-duty Foreign Service members.
Members of the U.S. Foreign Service are dedicated, hardworking public servants whose mission is to promote American interests, values, and national security. As the new coronavirus pandemic continues its march across the world, members of the Foreign Service have been working around the clock to bring home thousands of Americans stranded abroad. My spouse is one of those members of the Foreign Service working around the clock and in one of the most dangerous Posts. These brave Foreign Service members have triple worries—worry about their families back in the United States or elsewhere in the world, worry about their fellow Americans they are helping to return to the United States, and worry about their own personal health and safety. They worry, but they still conduct their duties as US Diplomats. They continue to serve as proud Americans.
My colleagues, to include my spouse, are proud to serve their country. This global pandemic struck at a time when the Foreign Service was already overstretched and understaffed. Numerous critical positions in Washington and at embassies abroad remain vacant.
I hope that something good will come out of this frightening time, including the support the Foreign Service needs to best serve America’s interests abroad.
Editor’s Note: Vella Mbenna served in the foreign service from 1989 to 2015. Her posts of assignments included The Philippines, Peru, Germany, Guatemala, Tanzania, Lebanon, Uganda, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan, Tunisia and two assignments in Washington, DC. Even though a Georgia girl at heart, she retired to Amelia Island,FL after her unforgettable whirlwind and accomplished career around the world with the US Department of State.