Campus Life

BUILD Dedicates Clinic In Honor Of William Peña

Converted from a shipping container by the student organization, the Texas Aggie Medical Clinic was dedicated to the late World War II hero during a ceremony in Laredo.
By Caitlin Clark, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications May 22, 2019

BUILD members at Laredo ceremony
Members of BUILD dedicated a Texas Aggie Medical Clinic in honor of William M. Peña at a May 9 ceremony in Laredo.

Courtesy of Gordon Carstens

BUILD’s new Texas Aggie Medical Clinic in Laredo — recently dedicated in honor of William M. Peña — is the first of its kind to be located in the United States.

During the past five years, volunteers from the Texas A&M University student organization have converted 22 shipping containers into fully-functional medical clinics that are now in use in 14 countries and five continents. The Laredo clinic is the last in BUILD’s “5 for 5” campaign, which honors Aggie veterans who played critical roles in the Allied victory during World War II.

Caleb Smoot, BUILD’S chief operating officer, said the organization had a desire to help meet healthcare needs closer to home, and when student leaders learned Laredo is Peña’s hometown, “the connection was just instant.”

“We found that there was actually a great need for medical care, housing, food, nutrition and education right here in the United States of America, whereas we had been seeking to serve that need overseas,” Smoot said. “And while BUILD loves our mission abroad and the impact that we have there, we felt that it was important for us to give back to our community here in Texas as well.”

The medical clinics are outfitted with lighting, plumbing, air conditioning and other essentials, and are powered by diesel generators. Construction and supplies for the facilities are supported by monetary donations and in-kind contributions.

Smoot, a senior economics major, attended the May 9 dedication ceremony in Laredo along with BUILD Team Leaders Tyler Moore, Roger Stark, Billy Radke and Benjamin Craig. Smoot said Peña exemplifies the Aggie Core Values – something BUILD hopes to emulate through its clinics serving people around the world.

Peña died in 2018 at the age of 99. An architecture major and member of the Corps of Cadets, Peña was commissioned into the Army immediately after graduating in 1942 and served in the 28th Infantry Division. There, he played a role in three major battles: Huertgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge and the Liberation of Colmar. Peña was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart; he retired from the Army as a captain in 1947. He is a Distinguished Alumnus of Texas A&M, and endowed an architecture scholarship in 2016.

Interior of a Texas Aggie Medical Clinic
An example of the interior of a BUILD Texas Aggie Medical Clinic.

Texas A&M Marketing & Communications

BUILD’s 5 for 5 campaign also dedicated clinics in honor of James Earl Rudder ‘32, Joe E. Routt ’37, James F. Hollingsworth ’40 and Turney W. Leonard ‘42.

The Laredo Texas Aggie Medical Clinic will be supported by the Texas A&M Colonias Program, which implements sustainable solutions to enhance the quality of life of residents living in colonias and economically distressed areas in Texas. Gordon Carstens, professor in the Department of Animal Science and faculty advisor for BUILD, said Colonias Program director Oscar Munoz helped BUILD coordinate with officials in Webb County to deploy the clinic. In order to serve more people, the clinic will be placed on a trailer and periodically moved to different districts around Laredo, Carstens said.

Since 2014, student volunteers have been converting 40-foot long shipping containers into medical clinics that are now operational in countries including Iraq, Cambodia, Jordan and Tanzania. BUILD has previously constructed 12 clinics dedicated to the 12 students who lost their lives in the 1999 Aggie Bonfire collapse. Carstens said volunteers have taken trips to visit the clinics in Haiti, Guatemala and Costa Rica, and BUILD students are planning a trip to help with the Laredo medical clinic.

Carstens estimates that BUILD had roughly 2,000 student volunteers last year separate from student supervisors and its command team. Construction starts again in mid-September, with a focus on the Fallen Aggie Hero Project to dedicate clinics to each of the 37 Aggie veterans killed on or after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“This is an opportunity for everyone to get involved, and this is a project that will save lives all around the globe, no matter what their skill level is or how much time they have to give,” Smoot said.

Media contact: Caitlin Clark, 979-458-8412,

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