PANAMA CITY BEACH, Nov. 12, 2018 -- Hurricane Michael destroyed veteran Stacy Hamilton’s home in Mexico Beach, Fla., and forced her family to live apart while they begin rebuilding their lives.
“We lost our house,” Hamilton said. “I lost all my baby pictures.
“When we returned to what was our home, the only thing left standing was our front door.”
Hamilton served in the Navy from 1992 to 1996. She was a firefighter and emergency medical technician aboard the USS Emory S. Land when the ship moved wounded soldiers from Iraq to medical facilities in Paris and London.
“We considered ourselves the local 911 for our troops,” Hamilton said.
Now, Hamilton and her family are receiving help from others. Hamilton and her husband, John, have been living in American Red Cross shelters since their home was destroyed. They continue to work in Panama City Beach while her two youngest children live 20 miles away with her parents.
Hamilton said she is grateful the Red Cross is providing a safe place for her and her husband to stay as they rebuild their lives.
“They helped us a lot,” Hamilton said. “I have met some wonderful volunteers who have come and gone over the past month.”
In addition to those Red Cross volunteers, Hamilton has been helped by someone she has never met but with whom shares a special bond.
An 89-year-old retired veteran living in the Clifford C. Sims State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Panama City sent a care package with practical items like socks, sweaters, hygiene products and even an apple, to the Arnold High School shelter. She specifically requested the package be delivered to another female veteran.
Receiving the package brought Hamilton to tears.
“It means a lot to me because we lost everything,” Hamilton said. “Everything means a lot.”
Hamilton said she tries to remain strong as she and her husband look for a two-bedroom apartment they can afford in Panama City Beach.
“I just want my family back together,” Hamilton said.
Once that happens, the Hamiltons still face the challenge of meeting the $15,000 insurance deductible on their home.
“We both work full time, but it will take a long time to get back on our feet,” Hamilton said.