September 12 – Spc. Nicki Fellenzer
I’m always gratified to see the excitement in the faces of my fellow Soldiers when some of the members of the 229th MP Company were told they were going to run a humanitarian mission to deliver water and other much-needed supplies to evacuees in small towns around Lake Charles, La.
It’s not that they’re bored or have nothing to do. There’s plenty.
It’s the fact that they get to interact with the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
It’s the fact that they get to show these people who lost everything that Virginians care about what happens to their fellow Americans.
It’s the fact that they wanted to help in a more personal way.
So when we were told two teams would drive to two small towns near Lake Charles today to deliver water, food, cleaning supplies and other essentials to evacuees housed there, the Soldiers jumped at the chance to help.
Sgt. Staggs and I gladly accompanied the two teams. I was happy to see the smiles on their faces – joy at finally being able to help the displaced residents of New Orleans in some small way. I rode with “A” team to Oberlin, La., while Sgt. Staggs drove to Jennings. But first…
…we had to brave the heat and the swarms of, what the residents of Louisiana affectionately call, “love bugs” to load our trucks and Humvees with the necessary supplies from the Burton Coliseum.
And when I say “swarms,” I mean “SWARMS!” It seemed at times the sky went dark with these insects as we worked to get pallets of water and other supplies into our vehicles. But I digress…
We drove about 50 miles to Oberlin, La., where we dropped off our load. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to interact with any of the evacuees, like we thought we would. They weren’t there. The Civic Center in Oberlin acted as a distribution point for water, food and other supplies. But the volunteers manning the center were extremely grateful and happy to see us anyway.
Fortunately for Sgt. Staggs, his experience was quite different from mine. He went with “B” team to Jennings.
September 12 – Sgt. Staggs
While Spc. Fellenzer was fighting her way through the remake of The Swarm, the “B” Team was on its way to Jennings, Louisiana, to drop off water and air beds for the 350 evacuees there.
Jennings is a very small town which, in many ways, reminds me of my hometown of Rockville, Indiana. Sheriff Ricky Edwards told me that there were enough evacuees to account for 3 percent of his Parish’s population, which made me think about what a natural disaster of this magnitude would do to my hometown. I don’t know if we would handle it as well as the people of Jennings have. I would certainly hope so.
The evacuees in Jennings are housed in a building at the fairgrounds, which is probably what we would have to do. The local townspeople have pitched in and been making homemade food for the hurricane victims, just as our town would do. I just hope that we would be as upbeat about having the evacuees in our backyard.
Jennings has opened up its arms to the victims of the hurricane. The evacuees’ children are now enrolled in local schools, and people who want to work are made to feel useful in any way they can. They made us feel very welcome as we showed up for a few short hours to deliver supplies and talk to the evacuees, if only for a moment.
What we hear and see on the news, for the most part, are stories of desperation and human suffering brought on by Hurricane Katrina. What I have seen in places like Jennings, Louisiana is people coming together to help. I just sincerely hope that what I do and have done has made some small impact on the quality of life these people have now.
I don’t want to be remembered for what I did as an individual, but I would love for just one family to say that the Virginia National Guard has made a difference in their lives.