Veterans, military help Americans with hurricane relief efforts

3755018 Veterans, military help Americans with hurricane relief efforts

U.S. Marines and Sailors with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, deliver food and water by way of UH-1Y Venom helicopters to St. Thomas Cyril King E. Airport, U.S. Virgin Islands in effort of aiding victims of Hurricane Irma in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Sept. 10, 2017.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tojyea G. Matally)

By Caitlin M. Kenney

Veterans and the military are coming to the aid of those affected by the two back to back hurricanes that have affected millions of Americans.

Team Rubicon, a volunteer organization that uses the skills of military veterans to respond to disasters, has been on the ground in Texas for weeks with 330 volunteers responding to the needs of those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

David Burke, vice president of programs and field operations for Team Rubicon has been to the affected area twice in the last two weeks and working alongside volunteers.

“It’s a really devastating scene to see the amount of damage,” he said.

In the areas that have been hardest hit, Burke has seen homes that had over five feet of water inside and soft materials were starting to mold.

Their work of clearing debris and mucking out homes has been “back breaking and really hot and difficult,” Burke said.

“But on the other side of it, the thing that seems to show in every disaster, and especially here in the… Hurricane Harvey affected area, homeowners’ resilience is incredible and volunteers’ willingness to support is pretty amazing,” he said.

“So there is a positive result when homeowners get some of the support they need and volunteers get a chance to serve somebody that’s just had one of their worst days.”

Team Rubicon has started to assess the impact of Hurricane Irma in Florida by sending two recon teams to several areas, including Naples and the Florida Keys, to see what the organization can do to help.

“This series of storms that we’ve seen in the last three weeks will represent probably the highest activity level that we’ve had as an organization since our founding,” Burke said about Team Rubicon and their disaster response work since 2010.

“The teams are out to support the areas that have been hit the hardest and need it most. And we’ll do everything we can to get as much help out as we can,” he said.

Hurricane Irma hit the U.S. Virgin Islands as a Category 5, causing widespread destruction to homes and critical infrastructure.

Col. Farrell Sullivan, commanding officer of 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, NC., spoke to via satellite phone on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands about the unit’s relief efforts.

“When you get on the ground and you see the islanders here, the Virgin Islanders are extremely resilient,” he said. “Individually and in communities, they are starting to get themselves back up and starting to get things running.”

The unit is working with FEMA and local National Guard members to move relief supplies, such as water, food, and kits for infants and toddlers, to distribution centers in the community.

The Marines had difficulty moving around the island due to down power lines, trees, and other debris, but they have sent out teams to clear roads so they can reach impacted areas and now critical infrastructure to get them back up and running.

Sullivan said his Marines are “absolutely motivated and focused,” to helping those in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“They love helping fellow Americans. So getting off the ships and getting to shore, morale couldn’t be higher.”

Connect: @CaitlinMKenney |

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