The American Red Cross relief response to help those affected by Superstorm Sandy has been massive. In the last month, the Red Cross has provided tens of thousands of shelter stays, served millions of meals and snacks, handed out millions of relief supplies, and provided other assistance like thousands of health services and emotional support contacts.
Those lending assistance include more than 160 members of the military, who took leave or liberty to volunteer with the Red Cross over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. These men and women came to New York and New Jersey from the Naval ROTC Program at George Washington University, Washington, DC; the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command, Charleston, South Carolina; the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland; the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York; Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia and the 704th Military Intelligence Brigade out of Ft. Meade in Maryland.
The military volunteers supported a variety of Red Cross operations ranging from helping in the relief warehouses to distributing relief supplies aboard Red Cross Emergence Response Vehicles (ERVs) dispatched into affected communities. In total they provided the equivalent of 11,475 man-hours of volunteer support.
The program was organized through the U.S. Northern Command Liaison Officer, Lt. Michael J. Quigley, United States Navy, dispatched to help from Fort McNair in Washington. Quigley said their effort was well received, that people they met were thankful for their help. As for the volunteers, Quigley said they all felt their volunteering made them part of something very humane.
The midshipmen from George Washington University unpacked and cleaned thousands of cots from 16 shelters across New Jersey, cleaned Red Cross trailers and ERVs and stocked them to return them to service. Midshipman Julia Stavridis, 21, found a pair of children’s glasses at the bottom of one of the boxes of cots. She imagined how the used cots were people’s homes after the storm hit their community. “We looked at them and thought, they were somebody’s bed after they lost their house.”
Volunteers from the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command supported shelters and kitchens during their nearly three weeks of service. Their cumulative total was more than 128,700 meals they helped serve. The midshipmen from the Naval Academy helped load and unload trucks and distributed disaster relief kits, and clean-up items like gloves, buckets, shovels, rakes, bleach and garbage bags. The midshipmen acknowledged that giving up their Thanksgiving holiday was a sacrifice but an easy one to make under the circumstances.
"When I first heard of the opportunity to go and help out with the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, I couldn't think of anything else I wanted to do over my Thanksgiving break," said Midshipman 2nd Class Philip Solt. "I could not stop thinking about all the people who were still struggling in getting the basic essentials - food, water, and shelter."
Cadets, officers and staff from the U.S. Military Academy supported Red Cross warehouse operations in Jersey City as well as operations in New York City. Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute helped in the warehouses, doing inventory of coats, clothing and shoes and loading trucks with pallets of relief supplies as well as delivering trucks full of supplies to those in need. "There was no way I could sleep in my warm bed knowing these people lost everything," VMI Cadet Jonathan Mattingley said.
Volunteers from Fort Meade prepped ERVs for use and organized pallets of supplies for future distribution, supplies like drinking water, cleaning supplies, towels and other things needed for people to clean up their properties.