By Debbie Gregory.
When Hurricane Maria landed in Puerto Rico, the catastrophic damage was evident. Sparking a humanitarian crisis of epic proportion, the majority of residents still don’t have electricity or access to clean water.
While the federal government has been slow to move with emergency response, U.S. veterans aren’t waiting around. A group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and first responders, who have formed the Warfighter Disaster Response Team, are taking care of business.
After assisting Houston and Florida, the team is helping to restore communications to Puerto Rico, bringing much needed supplies and aid and helping to start the recovery process. The Warfighter Disaster Response Team mission statement pretty much sums it up: Providing Veterans and First Responders with purpose and direction through service after service by helping their fellow man in times of dire need. Red tape frustrates them, especially when people are hurting and they can help, so they deploy themselves
Another contingent of veterans, led by Army vet Jason Maddy, is buying supplies with their own money, meeting the basic needs of the residents until other aid organizations get their footing.
“We learned through Hurricane Harvey that we were able to move a bit faster than FEMA and other government organizations because we became a ‘smaller task force,’ in a sense,” Maddy said.
Army veteran Chris Agron grew up in Puerto Rico before his family PCSed to California. He reached out to water filtration company Sawyer to purchase reusable mini filters and 170-gallon-a-day bucket adaptor systems at wholesale prices, and set up a GoFundMe to raise $10,000 to pay for the supplies.
“I know that anyone who’s been in the military is not afraid to ruck to bring aid to people.”
Agron plans on linking up with the other vets who have already “self-deployed” to Puerto Rico. And it’s there where Agron finally expects to put his military training to good use.
“We’re going to link up with the vets out there because they’re willing to go to where FEMA and the Red Cross are not,” Agron said.