FORT HOOD, Texas -- In mid-September, category-five hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, with winds up to 175 miles per hour. It was the 10th largest Atlantic storm system recorded in history and left a devastating trail of destruction.
To provide humanitarian relief to families in Puerto Rico, 28 Soldiers assigned to the 120th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division West, at Fort Hood, recently organized a shipment of 13 tons of relief supplies to the island.
"Great individuals fight for their country in a time of need, but the humble give back when they see there is a need," said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Keith, interim command sergeant major of the 120th Inf. Bde. "I'm proud that our warriors banded together to aid in a cause bigger than themselves."
After the storm dissipated, many families were left in need of provisions.
"My own family needed supplies, like gasoline for their cars," said Spc. Ilaitza L. Rosario, a native of Manati, Puerto Rico, and a transportation management coordinator with the Headquarters Support Company, 120th Inf. Bde. "Hearing about families in need of water and food made me want to help."
The Soldiers sent items based on the unique needs of the towns where their families live, said Maj. Diego L Becerra III, a native of Puerto Rico and an armor officer with the 1st Reg., 393rd Bn., 120th Inf. Bde.
"Across the brigade we want to help send items to [Puerto Rico], because 100 percent of our families' basic needs were still not being met," Becerra said.
More than 9,000 Puerto Rico citizens were residing in shelters or homeless while the island waited on humanitarian aid.
"I collected water, juice, canned foods and a generator from people in my neighborhood for donations," Rosario said. "I'm pregnant, and I can't imagine what it would be like to live through something like that and not feed my child."
Approximately 3.4 million individuals were without electricity while grocery stores remained closed.
"The group sent a total of 26,000 pounds of goods that included 33 generators," Becerra said. "Additionally, we packed seven pallets of flash lights, personal hygiene items, first aid kits, baby products and batteries, 200 cases of water and eight solar panels systems."
Rosario said she feels good knowing she helped her family out "in a huge way."
"My family will have food and water and power because of the officers, noncommissioned officers and civilians in the 120th," Rosario said.
This is only the beginning of the 120th's relief efforts, and a lot more work is still to be done, Becerra said. "We have a country of people who have never experienced anything like this before and are suffering."
The Soldiers of the 120th plan to send more aid supplies.
"The brigade is organizing another shipment to [Puerto Rico] if anyone wants to help," Becerra said. "There are several Puerto Rican Soldiers attached to the 120th who are more than willing to pass on information."