September 13, 2005

Virginia Guardsmen participate in humanitarian mission

By Sgt. Brad Staggs
Task Force Cardinal Public Affairs


Virginia National Guard Soldiers load vehicles with pallets of water to take to evacuees in Jennings and Oberlin, La. (Photo by Spc. Nicki Fellenzer, Task Force Cardinal Public Affairs)

JENNINGS, La. -- The victims of Hurricane Katrina in and around Lake Charles, La., are not housed at just two locations; they are spread out at shelters over several nearby towns. Members of the 229th Military Police Company and their support units were able to make a delivery of humanitarian supplies to one such shelter Sept. 12.

Jennings, Louisiana, a town of just over 11,000 people in Jefferson Davis Parish, has taken in 350 evacuees and the town’s authorities requested whatever help they could get from the Virginia National Guard. That’s why Soldiers delivered water and several air beds to be used by the evacuees.

Second Lt. Silas Prince, medical platoon leader with the Louisiana National Guard and one of only two full-time Soldiers at the Jennings site, knows the evacuees appreciate seeing the Virginia National Guard come in with more supplies for them. “What this means to them is the state cares for them, the people and the National Guard," Prince said. "It shows that we have all our resources for Louisiana and the federal government working to make things better for them, to get them back on their feet and to just know that they’re not going through this alone, and they have people on their side.”

Three hundred and fifty evacuees may seem like a small number compared to the 11,000 former New Orleans residents housed at the Houston Astrodome, but for this small town, which is actually the seat of Jefferson Davis Parish, even this number has strained local resources. Ricky Edwards, Sheriff of Jefferson Davis Parish and Office of Emergency Preparedness/Homeland Security Director, says the Parish has had as many as 3,000 evacuees, but that number has fallen, as some victims of the hurricane began moving on to live with relatives and friends rather than staying in the shelters and in tents at the local campground.


Soldiers of the 229th MP Company load water into vehicles in preparation for delivery to outlying towns near Lake Charles, La. (Photo by Spc. Nicki Fellenzer, Task Force Cardinal Public Affairs)

“Food is being made for the hurricane victims by our local people,” Edwards said. “We have placed the children in our schools, but the evacuees now represent three percent of our total population here in Jennings, so security has kept our officers on overtime and stretched our resources thin.”

Sheriff Edwards was very happy to see the Virginia National Guard roll in with supplies. “I welcome the Virginia National Guard to Louisiana, especially Southwest Louisiana. You’re part of the answer to all of our prayers, we thank you for coming.”

And for the members of the 229th MP Company it means a lot to be able to provide support and security to those whose lives and hopes were all but demolished by Hurricane Katrina.  According to Spc. Mark Faraino, “It felt very good to get to get out and circulate with the public and let them know the members of the 229th MP Company care.”

Sgt. Staggs is assigned to the 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office and is deployed with Task Force Cardinal.


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