September 10 – Sgt. Brad Staggs
For most of those who sign the dotted line to become a National Guard Soldier or Airman, we sign up in a hope that we will be able to help those close to us right here in the United States. In times of national emergency, such as the situation in the Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we cannot be there quick enough for our tastes… but again, that’s what we sign up for and get paid for.
Every now and then, somebody comes along who reminds us what sacrifice on behalf of others really means. Yesterday, Stacey Stevens, an ICU nurse from California, came to the 229th MP Company asking for help for herself and two other nurses: Paige Larrabee and Monica Rockerfeller. The nurses were trying to get to New Orleans to help at a hospital which was in the flooded section of town but still had patients who were too frail to move. Our Command quickly agreed to help with this truest of humanitarian missions.
I thought that this was a fantastic thing for these three nurses to do. They took time away from their jobs with their respective hospitals in California in order to help out in a place about which they had only heard in news reports. But the story doesn’t end there…
Spc. Fellenzer and I found out from the union representative from the California Nurses Association, a very nice British man named John Pickles, that these three nurses volunteered to go to New Orleans without pay. Let me say that again… these three nurses volunteered to take time off from their own jobs to go to a section of the country which looks like a third-world war zone in order to help other people whom they don’t know for no pay!
The most amazing thing to me is that we interviewed Stacey, Paige and Monica for an article and video story for the Virginia National Guard, but they did not say a word to us about losing money or how much they hated the conditions into which they were going… they simply wanted to thank the Virginia National Guard for taking them where they needed to go and they only wanted to be there to help those in need. We didn’t find out about them not being paid until AFTER they were gone.
We have heard these stories from several people throughout the Lake Charles region. Red Cross volunteers who have come from as far away as California and even Hawaii… the Director of Human Resources for the Civic Center is a volunteer from Kentucky. We spoke with a couple who had come down together from Indiana to help. He was a retired Sgt. Major and couldn’t imagine not being here to do what he could for anybody he could.
True heroes don’t necessarily wear a uniform; they come from all walks of life. It could be somebody who has driven or flown hundreds of miles or from just around the corner to help somebody they don’t know. It could be the person sitting at home making a donation to a reputable charity. A true hero is just somebody who cares. If we in the military didn’t care, we wouldn’t be here. This is what we signed up for… Helping others is why members of the 229th Military Police Company, the 192nd Security Forces Squadron, the 29th Infantry Division, the Virginia National Guard, and especially Nicki and I wear the uniform.
Pvt. Ian McAllister stands prepared to take nurses Paige Larrabee and Stacey Stevens to New Orleans, where they will work to support local hospital staff. (Photo by Spc. Nicki Fellenzer, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)