As the holiday seasons are coming we develop a sense of holiday cheer. Kids are always looking for the new things they will be receiving and few will look at the things that they will lose.
Hurricane Sandy came up the coast on October 29th of this year and it took a lot of hopes, homes, dreams and people’s lives. As a soldier of the New York National Guard it was my duty, responsibility, and honor to go down to New York City and do my best to help the people of New York even if it was only to help them clean the streets.
Our unit was sent to a location in Staten Island. The sights that I saw were horrific. People had left cars on the streets and when they returned, they found boats through the windshields. Houses that were once perfectly fine are now condemned without any hope of repairing them.
While walking the streets and cleaning my first day there, I saw one or two American flags. Their only purpose was perhaps a hope of warding off the storm. But as the citizens of those streets saw that the National Guard was there to help them, people searched for flags in their houses and hung them where they could.
It was then that I had realized that we were not just there for cleanup but also for motivation. The people who had nothing still felt that they had everything as long as we as soldiers still stood strong and helped them.
One thing we saw one day on the street were old baseball cards. These cards were worth money if in good condition. Unfortunately they were completely destroyed. A squad from my platoon came across the boy who had lost the cards. He was about 12 or 13 years old at most. We talked with him and his mother. After a short conversation, the mother went back inside and tried to give our squad of soldiers her last case of water. Even though the soldiers all refused the water immediately, she insisted that she wanted them to take the water and she would feel disrespected if they didn’t take it. We apprehensively took the water but before they had left they had asked the mother “Why of you have nothing and no clean water of your own why would you give us the last of your clean water?” She responded, “I can always buy more water. This water cannot even come close to the gratitude I wish I could show.”
My trip and experience getting deployed down to New York City changed me even though it came with some sacrifices. I came back with a sense of humbleness and humility that I did not have before. I have only been able to describe the visual feelings but to truly understand what I have said, well, it’s something that you need to experience. For everyone who reads this I hope that it moves you and it helps you think about how fortunate you are here to have not been hit by Sandy. And I hope you are moved to help those whose lives were so changed by that October storm.