By 1st Sgt. Lek MateoJuly 28, 2008
RAYMONDVILLE, Texas (Army News Service, July 25, 2008) - Residents of Rio Grande Valley are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Dolly after the second Atlantic hurricane of the 2008 season tore through south Texas July 23 with damaging wind and torrential rain.
Remnants of the Category 2 hurricane could still be felt as severe flooding in several coastal cities displaced several hundred families, whose homes were destroyed or made inaccessible.
Several thousand people were without electricity at the height of the storm due to downed power lines but utility companies from all over the state are working tirelessly to restore service.
More than 800 members of the Texas National Guard and State Guard joined forces with local, state and federal emergency responders in a massive relief operation to help the communities recover.
The military effort under the command of the Standing Joint Interagency Task Force assisted the state's Texas Task Force 1 with search and rescue, food, water and ice distribution and shelter management.
The troops established and manned 15 stationary food, water and ice distribution sites, known as PODS (point-of-distribution sites) and helped man and administer seven of the Red Cross and emergency agency shelter sites.
The Texas military forces had mobile distribution teams working in conjunction with Red Cross, Salvation Army, Department of Public Safety, and agencies. The stationary distribution sites will be manned around the clock until the local authorities determine they are no longer needed.
said this is definitely a joint organization and that he is proud to lead all three components of the Texas Military Forces involved with this mission.
"This is truly Texans helping Texans and we are ready for this kind of contingency operation," said Col. John Nichols, task force commander from the Texas Air National Guard's 149th Fighter Wing in San Antonio.
Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz, who represents the district impacted by the storm, visited one of the PODS to see the relief effort first hand.
He also commended the countless volunteers, especially the servicemen and woman who came to assist the people of south Texas.
"I want to thank all the military members who were activated and removed from their jobs and their family to come and help," said Soloman. "This shows their dedication and their loyalty to the state and the community and we appreciate that."
Sgt. 1st Class Eliberto Cavazos of the Texas State Guard and a resident of Raymondville, Texas, rode the storm out at the local high school with several members of his unit.
The retired city employee said that it was great to be able to work together as a team with his counterparts in the Army and Air National Guard and together show the community in which he lives in that the Texas military forces can do the job at hand.
"We've received a lot of thanks for coming here and helping from the people in my neighborhood and that they are truly very grateful." That makes me very proud to be able to serve in uniform," Cavazos stated.
Sharon Stanton, who has been out of power for three days, waited patiently for hours in her car until she reached the front of the line, where several Guardsmen and civilian volunteers quickly loaded her car with water and ice.
The La Feria, Texas resident said that she knew that relief was on the way when she started seeing convoys of large green National Guard Humvees and trucks arriving in her town hours after Dolly struck.
"The National Guard pretty much has got it together and they know what they're doing and that assures me that things are going to get better," Stanton said.
Pvt. 1st Class Michael Morales of the Texas Army National Guard's 449th Aviation Support Battalion based in San Antonio has been in the service for approximately a year and this is his first hurricane relief mission.
The private and several civilian volunteers worked at a feverish pace in the oppressive heat and humidity loading tons of water, food and ice into what seems like endless lines of cars at a distribution site in HarlingenTexas.
He acknowledged that the work was arduous and back breaking but was nothing compared to the suffering that residents are going through days after the hurricane had made land fall and that receiving a simple "thank you" and a smile from those seeking help makes the task worthwhile and rewarding.
"It feels good knowing that I can help distribute food and water to those that need it most and hopefully make their lives a little better," said Morales.
(1st Sgt. Lek Mateo serves with the Texas National Guard.)