EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – The final 30 members of the American Football Events Team USA women’s football team were able to return to the United States on Friday.
The 55-person team, which features six Las Cruces natives, had been stranded in Honduras, after the Honduran government issued a seven-day travel ban because of the coronavirus.
25 members were able to return to the U.S. on Thursday night, including one of the players from Las Cruces. The remaining 30 came back on Friday as the other five Las Cruces players all flew back on a military C-130 airplane, which took them to Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina.
“When the wheels of that plane lifted off the ground because as much as you’re hopeful, there’s always that spot in the back of your head where you’re not sure if you’ll make it home and if you come home, what’s it going to be like?” said Team USA player Candace Avalos. “The second I get home I can’t wait to see my kids.”
On Saturday afternoon, Billy and Candace Avalos arrived at the El Paso International Airport, while the three other remaining players flew in to Albuquerque.
“We’re actually going to have a Thanksgiving dinner because we’re being reunited,” said coach Billy Avalos. “I’m proud to be affiliated with AFE Team USA as well as proud to be an American. In these times, we really need to stick together.”
The six Las Cruces natives on Team USA were Billy and Candace Avalos, Alicia Aguirre, Rachel Damns, Wyshana Brooks and Jami Graham.
They are all part of the local women’s tackle football team La Muerte de Las Cruces and got the chance to travel to Honduras to play in the Americas Women’s Bowl, when the travel ban was put into place.
The team are just some of thousands of Americans that are currently trapped in Honduras or other countries around the globe. The team plans on advocating for those people, particularly those still in Honduras, now that they are home.
“This is going to be just the beginning,” Billy Avalos said. “We were very fortunate not to just get our team out, because we had 25 leave the day before, we were able to get an extra 60 people out with us. We can’t forget about them, we need to get everyone back home.”
While in Honduras, the team contacted their various local and state government officials and got in touch with the United States Department of State, as well as the United States Embassy in Honduras.
Billy Avalos told KTSM that New Mexico lawmakers, including governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham congresswoman Xochitl Torres-Small were instrumental in getting the team back to the United States.
Torres-Small was the first lawmaker to alert the U.S. State Department that the team was stranded, which started the process of getting them home.
With hundreds of Americans still stranded in Honduras and around the globe, the team created a Facebook group called, ‘Americans Stuck in Honduras 2020.’ The goal is to reach as many people stranded in Honduras as possible and help get them home.
“If anyone knows someone that is stuck in Honduras, look for that page and we will do whatever we can to bring you all home because we absolutely understand what it feels like to be stuck there,” said Candace Avalos.
A quick search of Facebook showed that there are other groups for Americans stranded in countries other than Honduras, including a group for Americans in Peru.