It was just another day as the on-call chaplain in Hawaii for Maj. Jeremiah Catlin when the phone rang with a familiar voice on the other end of the line.
“I had gotten several calls already throughout the week for some other support but that night I got a call from another chaplain…not as common,” he explained.
One of the other chaplains on the island called for support for one of their Soldiers who had just become a victim of a home fire that burned a number of connected housing units on Helemano Military Reservation (HMR), Hawaii on the evening of Sept. 24, 2020.
In total, there were six families impacted: totaling eight adults and six children with varying degrees of loss ranging from minor smoke damages to losing everything they owned except for the clothes they were wearing at the time.
Within 24-hours of the fire, families and volunteers at Impact Chapel on HMR arranged a goods drive to help provide these families with some of the things they lost.
Sgt. Jesus Robles, assigned to 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and his wife Bianca explained that the hardest part initially was not necessarily losing everything but rather a few things in particular.
“It was just devastating to think about but mostly we can replace the stuff, its more about our sentimental values and our child’s stuff…its kind of hard to talk about,” said Bianca.
While certain priceless items can never be replaced, the donations that came pouring into Impact Chapel definitely aid in recovering much of the things the Robles family lost to the fire.
Throughout the days prior to the Robles family coming to pick up goods from the drive, Impact Chapel quickly became overwhelmed with everything from clothes, food, furniture and baby toys.
“I was in complete shock,” said Jesus. “I honestly didn’t want to come [to the drive] because I don’t really want to be around people right now because I am feeling pretty overwhelmed…but being here, I find myself cracking jokes again and I am feeling happy.”
The Robles family were not the only ones surprised by the amount of donations…Catlin explained that it would be impossible to replace everything that was lost but this drive exceeded his expectations.
“We had a great turnout from people also from outside our church because the number of cars we counted come through today was around 110,” explained Catlin. “Yes, we expected a good amount of donation but what we’re seeing is an amount that will sustain all six families for quite some time.”
As the days following the fire continued on, there was one central theme that was brought up by many of the volunteers as well as the individuals affected by the fire which was that the military community is like a family that you sometimes do not even know.
Catlin, while acknowledging the overflowing goods behind him said, “We [the military community] may seem small but look at what 110 cars of people did to say we care about you and we don’t want to see you not be able to recover.”