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Members of the U.S. armed forces are well-known for their international exploits, but the extent to which they help at home sometimes goes ignored.
Take Engineman (EN3 SW) Viktoria Roemer. The 2010 Bement High School graduate has been helping Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy victims since the disaster hit the east coast last week. She said the area where she is stationed – Virginia Beach, Va. – did not see the same wind and rain that hit New York and New Jersey, but that the area still received substantial flooding and damage.
Her unit’s main goal was to use military trucks to “help people get from place to place.
“One of the things that surprised me is when we’d go to the grocery store, a lot of the consumables, eggs and bread were gone. Flashlights were gone. And it was like that store after store,” said Roemer, in her third year with the Navy.
At one point there were over 170,000 people in Virginia without power, but to the north there were literally millions without electricity. Most of the 100 fatalities recorded thus far have been mostly in New York and New Jersey.
Different military branches are working together to provide relief. Roemer said members of the Navy have worked with the Marines and the Coast Guard in an effort to help.
Robin Whitted of Monticello headed east on Friday afternoon as a volunteer for a Chasing4Life Disaster Response team. One of her main tasks was to help provide housing for emergency crews with Rapid Deployment Shelters – inflatable units that can be connected to provide temporary housing, complete with beds.
“We will deploy dozens upon dozens of them, and Robin will help head up that effort,” said Eddy Weiss, director of Chasing4Life, a national organization that provides disaster response teams when needed.
“We always want to fill gaps. I don’t want to do anyone else’s job. That’s why we provide these RDS’s – there are all these responders who come and they get there and have no place to say.”
Ironically, Weiss was attending an International Association of Emergency Managers conference in Florida on Oct. 30 when atendees were alerted at the same time to the need out east. He said a wave of cell phone calls alerted notified all of the 1,300 attendees individually.
“It was everyone talking, then all of sudden everyone’s phones all went off at the same time. It was kind of a weird experience,” said Weiss.
‘We should go’
Lee Schofield is collecting items through Faith Lutheran Church in Monticello and have been cleared to take a load to New York. They are scheduled to leave on Saturday, Nov. 17.
“We were watching the coverage, and my wife (Julie) said, ‘we should go. Let’s take some things and just go,” said Lee Schofield, of Monticello.
Those wishing to donate funds, non-perishable food items and warm blankets can bring them to the church at 1201 Bear Lane, or call Schofield at 217-412-5590. Clothing is not being sought at this time, as organizers on the east coast are saving warehouse space for food, which they say is the greatest need at this point.
Other individuals and groups who wish to trek to New York can also volunteer by sending an email with a telephone number, address and which borough they want to work in to the City of New York at firstname.lastname@example.org.