By Reginald RogersJanuary 23, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- For many of Fort Bragg's Soldiers, being able to assist in the global humanitarian support effort to Haiti brings with it a sense of pride. Now that feeling has been magnified for two Fort Bragg officers as family members have also gotten into the act.
On Wednesday, Jan. 20, military cargo planes from nearby Pope Air Force Base were featured on a local news report as they air dropped pallets of bottled water into the earthquake-ravaged country.
Fort Bragg's heavy-air-drop parachute riggers provided the manpower in getting the packages ready and Maj. Kenneth Letcher and his wife Maj. Michelle Letcher, both of whom are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, along with the 82nd Airborne Division's G-4 section, handled the coordination.
Kenneth's conversation with his father Keith, a retired Army colonel, who works for the National Beverage Corporation in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and his wife Michelle, who is assigned to the division's Sustainment brigade, led to the distribution of more than 200,000 bottles of water to the citizens of Haiti.
"My dad called me and asked how his company could help and I directed him to the 82nd Abn. Div.'s G-4 office," explained Kenneth Letcher, who works for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Abn. Div. "I knew that they would donate truckloads of water and we were able to get that here at Fort Bragg within 24 hours. My wife and her team were able to bundle it for air drops over Haiti."
He said his father expressed his company's frustration because it wanted to help and had tried to get the water to Haiti through connections in Miami, but to no avail. Keith also explained to his son that it was important to the National Beverage Corp. to help the people in Haiti and to support the military in its efforts.
"He said, 'I just want to help. How can I help,'" Kenneth said.
According to Kenneth, the Army has done a great job in its humanitarian effort to Haiti.
"Fort Bragg, the civilian and military community here has rallied to help support the 2nd Brigade Combat Team as they deploy to Haiti," he said. "They've supported the XVIII Airborne Corps headquarters as they deployed and we're really doing a lot of behind-the-scenes support with the help of the Air Force to get supplies and equipment over to Haiti."
Kenneth said he was especially proud of their family's efforts.
"It makes me feel proud," he said. "I got my penchant for service from my dad, who retired after 30 years in the military and I'm glad that he has maintained his ties to the military and is looking to do his part as well."
Michelle echoed her husband's sentiments.
"It's amazing the way people rally together when they want to help others," said Michelle, who works at the 82nd Sustainment Brigade, the unit that is responsible for the Soldiers who prepare the airdrop products. "It was amazing to see the water arrive, Soldiers work and people wanting to help. It was great that we could receive the water and get it to where it needed to be within 24 hours. It makes me feel good, just knowing that I had a part in a little piece of that."
According to the elder Letcher, the urge to help came from National Beverage's chief executive officer Nick Caporella, who issued a statement to the company that he wanted to help the people of Haiti. During this time, he also asked if anyone had ties to Fort Bragg.
"When I got the message, I let them know it just happens to be that my son and daughter-in-law are there," Keith Letcher said. "I called my son and 'hey, is there anyone or who is the point of contact'' He got me a point of contact, I called him and we worked it from there."
The National Beverage Corp. sent six tractor-trailers loaded with 24 pallets each to Fort Bragg's gate. The end result was a total of 200,000 bottles of water to be distributed to Haiti.
According to Grace Keene, the company's director of Investor relations and corporate communications, the National Beverage had concerns that were taken care of once they got in touch with Fort Bragg.
"We could not get any organizations to move fast and that's why we reached out to Keith because everyone else was so backed up," she explained. "We were just so happy that Keith could make the contact with the military and those guys are fast. They got that water there within 24 hours."
She said she was also happy that National Beverage was able to assist in the effort.
"We feel wonderful about (being able to contribute to the relief effort)," she added. "Keith is a long and valuable member of our team. To have his family work with our family just makes us feel really great. We're always quick to respond when people are in need, but this is was such a devastating earthquake and those poor victims there are so desperate for life-sustaining necessities and we just so glad that we reacted. We're going to continue to do whatever we can to help them."
Keith said he was equally proud that his company and of his family members could provide assistance.
I'm proud of both of them," he said of Kenneth and Michelle. "Both of them are good kids. That's the first time that we've done anything professionally. It made me feel good that I could join in and help in the relief effort and for National Beverage to jump in and be the leader as we put our water on the ground first."